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New Yorkers with Sunrise Movement take action In Brooklyn for an economic recovery and infrastructure package prioritizing climate, care, jobs, and justice, calling on Congress to pass the THRIVE Act on April 7, 2021. (Photo: Noam Galai via Getty Images for Green New Deal Network)

New Yorkers with Sunrise Movement take action In Brooklyn for an economic recovery and infrastructure package prioritizing climate, care, jobs, and justice, calling on Congress to pass the THRIVE Act on April 7, 2021. (Photo: Noam Galai via Getty Images for Green New Deal Network)

If Biden Serious About Green Jobs, Sunrise Movement Urges Embrace of AOC-Markey Civilian Climate Corps

With a "historic" bill introduced just this week in Congress, campaigners say the president has a chance to pass "the very opportunity he is hopeful for."

Kenny Stancil

After President Joe Biden said during the White House's climate summit this week that the climate crisis is "one of the largest job creation opportunities in history," campaigners on Friday urged the president to prove his commitment by pushing for the passage of a newly introduced bill that would put over a million people to work in green jobs nationwide.

"Combating climate change can and should create millions of good, fulfilling jobs, fully transforming our economy and our society in the process," Sunrise Movement political director Evan Weber said Friday in response to Biden's remarks.

Earlier this week, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) "presented Biden with a historic bill that describes the very opportunity he is hopeful for: the Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act," Weber noted. "This visionary policy would create a government jobs program putting a new generation of Americans to work combating the climate crisis, while forging a new era of civic collaboration in this country."

"Biden can't fight the climate crisis with empty promises," Weber added. "He must deliver by passing Sen. Markey's Civilian Climate Corps Act through his infrastructure package."

While the American Jobs Plan unveiled last month by Biden is overwhelmingly popular, progressive activists, lawmakers, and economists have warned that the White House's proposal to spend $2.3 trillion over eight years to upgrade the nation's physical and social infrastructure does not come close to meeting the scale of what is necessary and called instead for investing $1 trillion per year for a decade to combat the climate emergency.

Although Biden has endorsed the idea of a Civilian Climate Corps after Sunrise Movement pushed for it last summer during climate task force discussions, the group said in a statement that "his current proposal is nowhere near the magnitude" of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, a key New Deal program enacted to address the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.

"Roosevelt's original CCC employed around 300,000 young Americans per year at a time when the U.S. population was [about] 40% what it is now," Sunrise noted. "Biden's proposed CCC would invest $10 billion over 10 years, equating to about 10-20,000 jobs a year."

Not only does Biden's plan pale in comparison to FDR's—despite the fact that society is staring down economic and environmental crises of an even greater magnitude—it also falls far short of what Markey and Ocasio-Cortez called for on Tuesday when they reintroduced the Green New Deal resolution alongside the Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act.

As Sunrise explained, the lawmakers' proposed Civilian Climate Corps is "supported by dozens of racial, economic, climate justice, and labor groups and would employ a diverse group of 1.5 million Americans within five years to complete clean energy, climate resilience, environmental remediation, conservation, and sustainable infrastructure projects, while providing education, training, and career pathways in good union jobs."

"The CCC will provide a $15 minimum wage, ensure mandatory health and educational benefits for participants, and foregrounds racial justice and tribal sovereignty protections," the group added. "This is a concrete first step towards the longer-term vision of the Green New Deal."

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