Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive lawmakers are calling for the creation of a 1.5 million-strong group of civilians to work on federally funded projects addressing climate change as part of their sweeping Green New Deal legislation. 

Members of the Civilian Climate Corps would receive on-the-job training and work with community groups on initiatives to "reduce carbon emissions, enable a transition to renewable energy, build healthier and more resilient communities, implement conservation projects with proven climate benefits, and help communities recover from climate disasters." 


The Civilian Climate Corps would fall under the purview of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent government agency that also runs AmeriCorps and other national service initiatives. The group would seek to employ 1.5 million Americans over five years, calling for coordination between the federal government and local organizations, including unions, according to a copy of the proposal.

The plan draws inspiration from the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, a public relief program established during the Great Depression that gave unemployed young men jobs relating to the conservation and development of government-owned rural lands.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., hold a press conference on the Green New Deal Resolution outside of the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., hold a press conference on the Green New Deal Resolution outside of the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (Getty Images)

"What we’re going to do is make sure communities like Flint, Baltimore, the South Bronx, St. Louis, rural communities whose infrastructure was never properly built in the first place, are first in line to rectify the injustices of the past and make sure they get everything they need to thrive in the future," Ocasio-Cortez told reporters when introducing the legislation alongside Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

At least 50% of the funding would be reserved for "environmental justice" communities, which would also provide at least 50% of the Civilian Climate Corps members. Another 10% of funding would be reserved for tribal communities.

A Markey aide told Fox News the group would be passed as part of the Biden administration's American Jobs Plan and paid for through the standard Congressional appropriations process. It would cost an estimated $10 billion.


President Biden has expressed support for the proposal, issuing an executive order just one week after he was sworn in calling for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to "put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate."

The president is currently pushing lawmakers to pass his nearly $4 trillion spending proposals designed to redistribute trillions and dramatically expand the nation's social safety net. The two measures, known as the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, make up his sprawling "Build Back Better" agenda. 

The first of the proposed spending measures, the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, would allocate $10 billion to "put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, and advancing environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Corps, all while placing good-paying union jobs within reach for more Americans."


The proposal would be paid for by a bevy of tax hikes, including raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and imposing a higher global minimum on U.S. businesses' foreign earnings. (The American Families Plan would be funded by higher taxes on wealthy Americans).

Still, the plans face significant headwinds in Congress, even though Democrats control both chambers.

Moderate members of the president's own party have pushed back against his corporate tax plan, warning it could hinder U.S. competitiveness. Republicans have already panned the proposal, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., predicting that no GOP senator would support the measures.