The White House Hosted Its First ‘Climate Corps’ Info Session, And It Was Exactly What You’d Expect

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  • The White House held its first information session for prospective members of the American Climate Corps (ACC), a de facto green jobs training program that the Biden administration created via executive action after it failed to make it into the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
  • Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi addressed the potential members of the ACC on Thursday, touting the program as a key tool in the administration’s climate agenda that aligns with labor unions and the spirit of climate activists.
  • “President Biden’s American Climate Corps will improve on (former) President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps by rectifying the racial and gender inequities of the past to build a climate corps for today,” Markey said during the virtual meeting.

The White House hosted its first information session for President Joe Biden’s “American Climate Corps” (ACC) program on Thursday to tout the program and solicit feedback from prospective participants.

White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi joined Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and other White House officials to preview the ACC, a de facto green jobs training program that is expected to begin churning out cohorts this summer. The government officials marketed the program as a key tool to push sweeping societal action to counter climate change, while civilians logged on to the virtual information session made suggestions and asked a range of questions about the ACC and the shape it will take.

The White House announced the establishment of the ACC in September, using executive authority to start the program. The ACC was a top priority for left-wing lawmakers and environmentalists during negotiations for the massive legislation that ultimately became the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), but the program did not make it into the package due to strong Republican opposition surrounding its potential costs, according to The Associated Press. (RELATED: Far-Left Activists Demand Lawmakers To Sign $94 Trillion ‘Green New Deal’ Pledge)

Markey, who introduced a Green New Deal resolution with Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in 2019, was the first official to deliver extended remarks about the ACC during the information session.

“The president’s American Climate Corps will put 20,000 Americans to work, get them trained, get them paid and turn green investments into a green workforce, marking a new era of youth-powered climate action all across our country,” Markey said. “When we hear about these crises hitting our communities — climate change, racism, public health pandemics, economic inequality — it is easy to choose a path of frustration,” he continued, adding that Biden’s ACC will “[rectify] the racial and gender inequities of the past” and be an “unapologetically pro-union” program.

Zaidi, one of the key administrative players in the Biden administration’s massive climate agenda, also spoke during the information session.

“Whether it’s climate change, or it’s student debt relief, or it’s taking on the gun lobby, I think young people have opened our imagination, our aperture, our desire to drive big structural change at this moment of crisis,” Zaidi said. “I think, in particular, the fingerprints of youth organizers, and fingerprints of folks like Ed Markey … are all over the design of the Biden administration’s climate policy agenda.”

“We’ve got communities in America that were redlined as part of a racist housing policy that are literally hotter today because of that policy,” Zaidi added.

The Biden administration has made a deliberate effort to infuse social justice into its environmental policies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) massively stepped up its “environmental justice” grantmaking and regulatory enforcement agenda in 2023, and the administration’s “Justice40” mandate instructs federal agencies to ensure that 40% of the overall benefit of environmental policy flows to historically marginalized communities.

Zaidi also emphasized that the work of the ACC will require the White House’s cooperation and partnership with labor unions and philanthropic non-profit organizations in his remarks. In order to incentivize participation in the program, Zaidi expressed the importance of compensation for corps members as well as potentially providing perks like healthcare, child care, educational credits and student loan forgiveness to members.

Labor unions, including those that typically support Democratic candidates with endorsements and campaign contributions, have also played a key role in the Biden administration’s climate agenda. The Biden administration has designed many of its green energy and infrastructure subsidy programs to include labor requirements such that developers can only access government cash if they contract organized labor for government-assisted projects, according to Bloomberg News.

The program’s moderators also invited questions and suggestions from those who had tuned into the session.

“One component I want you to think about as well is in the activation component — we need to make it cool and fun. We should make movies, and TV shows, and ads, and comedy sketches and get celebrities involved to combat the disinformation and fear-mongering,” Cole Thomas, a content creator who participated in the information session, suggested to the hosts.

Other questions related to the permanence of the ACC, especially if former President Donald Trump wins the upcoming presidential election.

“I know that if Trump takes office again, whether through votes or violence, we’ll all have a lot of other problems to deal with, but I’m wondering, if that happens, will the climate corps be on firm enough footing that it will be safe from his whims, or will it be more of a situation where one executive order can dissolve it immediately?” asked Benjamin Goldstein, a self-described “philosopher” who joined the information session.

Because the program was established using executive action, it can also be undone by executive action rather than requiring Congress to effectuate a repeal. House Republicans have already made efforts to rein in the program: the House Oversight and Accountability Committee: the House Oversight and Accountability Committee launched an inquiry into the program in October 2023 to obtain any internal cost projections that may exist, and Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Good introduced a bill the next month that would prohibit the use of federal funds to finance the ACC.

Markey’s office and the White House did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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