The idea plays off a proposal put forward by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed his own Peace Corps-style Climate Conservation Corps during his presidential bid. Inslee’s plan called for three separate tiers of civilian climate involvement. The first domestic tier would see civilians work on retrofitting buildings and constructing climate-friendly infrastructure in local communities. The second tier, meanwhile, would send participants overseas to learn about climate mitigation and resilience, while the final tier would focus on sustainable green energy job creation.
More recently, Democratic lawmakers, including Biden, floated the idea of a Civilian Climate Corps modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, a key facet of the New Deal. That proposal called for the federal government to pay civilians to engage in climate-related work like installing solar panels and providing water and supplies during extreme weather events.
Thursday’s Clean Energy Corps reveal followed a similar announcement from the Department of Homeland Security which said it’s creating a new “Climate Change Professionals Program” intended to recruit recent college graduates and federal employees interested in climate change and climate resilience. DOH secretary Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement claimed that the initiative would, “develop the next generation of climate experts,” and improve climate literacy.
These efforts are in service of trying to fulfill Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. carbon emissions at least 50% by 2030. Given the country’s rise in emissions last year, the continued entrenchment of the fossil fuel industry, and the log-jammed Senate, those targets seem rather optimistic. But a World War II-style civilian mobilization like what’s coming to the DOE could increase the odds of success.