AOC-backed ‘Civilian Climate Corps’ would hire hundreds of thousands to fight climate change

AOC-backed ‘Civilian Climate Corps’ would hire hundreds of thousands to fight climate change
AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
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Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s so-called “Civilian Climate Corps” will be included in the Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. The effort will include hiring hundreds of thousands of people to be a part of a “diverse and equitable” group to fight climate change. 

The bill guarantees salaries of $25,000 and $50,000 for “corpsmembers.” 

Earlier this year, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Democrat Sen. Ed Markey pushed the Democratic Party leadership to pass the “Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act” through the reconciliation process — a method that Congress can use to enact budget bills with a simple majority in the Senate, rather than the 60-vote majority required to pass most pieces of legislation. 

Lacking a 60-person majority and unable to get votes from their Republican counterparts, Democrats have been using reconciliation bills to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda, including the various parts of the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. 

As detailed in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders, the reconciliation plan is designed to address climate change issues through AOC’s bill. He explains:

Perhaps most important, we will begin the process of shifting our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy to combat the existential threat of climate change. This effort will include a nationwide clean-energy standard that moves our transportation system, electrical generation, buildings and agriculture toward clean energy. We will also create a Civilian Climate Corps, which will hire hundreds of thousands of young people to protect our natural resources and fight against climate change.

If passed as part of the reconciliation package, the “Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act” would cost $70 billion, to be spent between 2021 and 2025. 

Ocasio-Cortez explained in a joint press release with Markey that the legislation involves the creation of a “diverse and equitable group” of 1.5 million Americans over five years to complete federally-funded projects that respond to climate change and create a transition to a “clean economy” and develop “entirely new green spaces.” 

Civilian Climate Corps work will reduce carbon emissions, enable a transition to renewable energy, build healthier and more resilient communities, implement conservation projects with proven climate benefits, and help communities recover from climate disasters.

“The Civilian Climate Corps will provide an opportunity for millions of Americans from every walk of life to earn a good wage while serving their communities and training to transform our economy,” Markey said. “Rebuilding and strengthening our neighborhoods—especially those that have been devastated by climate change and racist housing and health care policies—and supporting our labor force must be our highest priority in the months and years to come.”

“The CCC would put 1.5 million young people to work strengthening our communities and preserving our lands – doing everything from remediating blight and maintaining trails to creating entirely new green spaces,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The program also provides the support needed to turn this work into a career path - including childcare, eldercare and tax-free educational grants to be used for student loan debt payments or higher education. Americans across the political spectrum support the CCC - now we need to ensure the program is funded at a scale to reach every community.”

In addition to guaranteeing moderate-paying salaries for the “diverse and equitable” group, the corps will also employ “explicit antiracist language,” “prioritize labor groups,” and enact “tribal sovereignty protections.” 

Efforts to enact the corps may not come to fruition however, as the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion package — which economists estimate could actually cost up to $5.5 trillion — has stumbled and struggled in Congress due to opposition from Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

“I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion — and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead,” said Sinema in a recent statement to the Arizona Republic.

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