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Millions of Americans want to serve in the fight against global warming, but lack organized opportunities to do so. Millions of others seek pathways out of poverty or better employment in the clean energy economy, but lack the necessary skills, work experience and connections to unions or employers. Untold numbers of homeowners, businesses, local governments and schools want to reduce the energy costs of the buildings where they live, work, and learn—which would generate hundreds of thousands of “green-collar” jobs— but they lack the financing to do so. America as a whole is suffering through a deep economic recession, with job losses and extreme levels of wealth inequality, rising energy prices and energy insecurity, and an increasing scarcity of hope and common purpose. Americans are looking for solutions on climate, energy and the economy.
To address these intersecting challenges, we propose a national Clean Energy Corps (CEC). The CEC will be a combined service, training, and job creation effort to combat global warming, grow local and regional economies and demonstrate the equity and employment promise of the clean energy economy. The CEC will:
- Directly engage millions of Americans in diverse service, service-learning, and volunteer work related to climate protection;
- Work with employers, unions, educators, and community organizations to put more Americans, particularly the low-income and unemployed, on green-collar career pathways— providing them the training, credentials, work experience, job placement, and other essential elements for good and secure jobs in the clean energy economy;
- Preserve and enlarge green public spaces, strengthen community defenses against climate disruption, and enlist America’s public lands in the fight against climate change by planting trees and restoring wetlands and rivers; and
- Launch a national effort to comprehensively apply cost-effective energy efficiency measures to our nation’s building stock. This effort will generate demand for hundreds of thousands of jobs, and significantly reduce our national energy costs and contribution to global warming. It will also more than pay for itself by recovering a portion of the energy savings achieved.
The time is right for such an effort. The public urgently wants action to promote clean energy, increase energy security, and curb global warming. Our ailing economy needs a stimulus that is productive, sustainable, and focused on communities. Low-income communities, both urban and rural, are keenly aware of the economic promise of a clean energy economy, and eager to realize the opportunity it will provide to those who have historically been left behind. Blue-collar workers—including those left on the bench by a stalled construction industry—are looking for a chance to apply their skills to green-collar work that rebuilds our nation. And Americans of all political persuasions support the idea of voluntary national service: young adults of the “greenest generation” are already volunteering in record numbers, and would welcome a chance to contribute to the fight against global warming; so will retiring baby boomers looking to make meaningful contributions in their “encore” careers.
A bold visible national effort like the CEC will bring together Americans across social class, generations, background and experience, and powerfully advance the national effort to stop global warming while widening economic opportunity and promoting active citizenship. CEC’s integrated approach to climate protection, job generation, and training will speed America’s clean energy transition by demonstrating its welcome and immediate effect on our communities. The CEC is a big idea that is tangible enough to capture the imagination of America, unite key constituencies, and motivate millions to act. Helping to heal the planet, it will also help heal the nation.
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This report was originally published by Green for All.