5 states launch climate corps, coinciding with federal program

Biden announced the launch of the American Climate Corps on Wednesday.
Downtown Los Angeles is shrouded in early morning coastal fog and smog on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Five states said Wednesday they are creating state-level climate corps programs, as President Biden announced the launch of the American Climate Corps to put more than 20,000 young people on career pathways in the growing fields of clean energy, conservation and climate resilience.

The programs in Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah include fellowships that will help provide professional development opportunities as states transition to a low-carbon, green economy.

They will work with California’s climate corps — the first one to launch, in 2020 — that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says can make significant progress in addressing climate change.

“With these five states launching their own climate corps, we’re making climate action a reality in communities representing millions of Americans,” Newsom said in a statement. “Together, we’re mobilizing and organizing citizen climate action at a scale never seen before — and now we’ll begin to see its impact across the nation.”

Newsom has helped spearhead the effort to launch corps in other states, with at least 10 states now having done so. They typically run through or are modeled on AmeriCorps, to promote national service for those who are just beginning their careers or just out of college. The programs are reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps, created by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, though with a modern focus on climate change issues.

Each state will tailor the program to its specific needs and will determine additional climate activity priorities. Under the fellowship programs, fellows can earn up to $30,000 by serving their communities, engaging volunteers, educating the public and participating in urban greening, wildfire resiliency, and organic waste and edible food recovery activities. Fellows are also eligible for a scholarship to pay for college or to pay off student loans.

The state-level climate corps are typically funded through a public-private partnership between philanthropy and AmeriCorps.

“By creating opportunities for Minnesotans to explore career pathways in sustainability, we’re making it easier for Minnesota to lead in creating climate solutions while building a clean, competitive economy,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) said in a statement. “We are committed to positioning Minnesota as a national leader in climate solutions.”

The program is designed in part to help states meet climate milestones. California is one of 22 states that currently have 100% clean energy goals, according to the Clean Energy States Alliance. California is also one of at least 16 states that have set a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

But Biden and other Democrats also typically frame the transition to the green economy as an opportunity for economic growth.

“When I think of climate, I think of jobs,” Biden said in a climate speech in June. “When I think of climate, I think of innovation. When I think of climate, I think of turning peril into progress.”