Author: Pexels/Artem Podrez     Published: 3/12/2024     Word In Black

President Joe Biden did not talk much about climate change in his wide-ranging and offer times gleefully combative State of the Union address on Thursday night — his last before the election in November. He didn’t mention his landmark climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, by name, and didn’t devote more than a few sentences to climate policy on the whole.

The President did make a bit of environmental news, however: he announced that the American Climate Corps, the green-jobs training program he started last fall through an executive order, will triple in size by 2030 — from 20,000 people to 60,000. And as has been the subtext to the program from the beginning, that will mean a lot more young Black and brown Americans setting out on green careers in the coming years.

READ MORE: Why Biden’s Climate Corps Needs to Prioritize Black Youth

Based on the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era jobs program that put unemployed men to work doing everything from planting trees to building cabins on federal land across the country, and inspired by the Green New Deal, Biden’s Climate Corp aims to train Americans for the jobs that will hopefully be at the heart of a decarbonized economy.

And thanks to the President’s Justice40 initiative, 40% of the projects undertaken by the Climate Corp and 40% of its members will be from so-called environmental justice communities that are on the front lines of the climate crisis.

But unlike the CCC, which gave jobs to some three million men during the nine years of the program, the Climate Corps is quite small in comparison, with an initial cohort of 20,000. The expansion will give it a significant boost, however, and allow the administration to somewhat surpass the demand that they have seen thus far: according to a February announcement of a USDA Corps program, more than 50,000 people have said they are interested in the program.

“President Biden is already building a better America,” Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a coauthor of the Green New Deal, said in a statement, “including by heeding our movement’s call by establishing and now pledging to triple the historic American Climate Corps.”

A federal green jobs program like the one proposed in the Green New Deal was initially included in the climate legislation that became the IRA, but West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (who has deep ties to his state’s coal industry as both a businessman and a politician) withheld his vote in part over its inclusion.

Ironically, the flood of federal money made available for green infrastructure projects through the IRA will still help support the President’s more ad-hoc approach to establishing the Climate Corps. The White House is also working with agencies across the federal government, like USDA, and a number of states that have already established their own green job-training programs to find funding for the Climate Corps without having to go through Congress.

That approach managed to get the program off the ground, and receive such a groundswell of interest and support — but also threatens its longevity too. Because it’s backed only by an executive order it’s a climate program that could easily and readily be undone if Biden loses the election in November.