NEDERLAND — Colorado officials on Friday announced the creation of the state's very own climate corps.
Congressman Joe Neguse, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and representatives from the Colorado Youth Corps Association, state Department of Natural Resources and AmeriCorps announced the group’s formation at a press conference in Nederland.
The first iteration Colorado Climate Corps program will consist of 240 AmeriCorps members who will be spread out in 55 counties across the state.
The group will be focused on:
- Mitigating the risks wildfires and floods
- Improving the health and resiliency of public lands
- Educating communities about the effects of climate change
- Helping weatherize houses
- Moving the state’s electric grid to 100% renewable sources by 2040
- Retrofitting the homes of low-income to conserve resources and lower utility bills
“We’ve been working for more than a year to enlist a diverse, new generation of Americans in a Civilian Climate Corps to restore our public lands, suppress western wildfires and tackle the climate crisis,” said Congressman Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette.
Governor Jared Polis’ commission on community services has committed roughly $1.7 million to helping the Colorado Climate Corps’ mission.
“I think over the last few years, or maybe the last few decades, we’ve been seeing the impacts of climate change sort of compound on each other,” said Matthew Luzincourt, a member of the Colorado Youth Corps Association. “It’s just kind of spiraling, in a sense, and getting worse and worse.”
One of the main missions of the group will be to help low-income and marginalized communities mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Juan Perez Saez, the executive director of Environmental Learning for Kids, says low-income communities are often the first to suffer from the impacts of climate change.
“Communities of color, especially working class, low-income communities all across the state, tend to live in areas with worst air quality,” Perez Saez said. “The fact that they’re being exposed to poor air quality can impact their health. It can affect their ability to go to work. Sometimes they have to call out sick.”
He doesn’t believe that income should be a factor in someone’s ability to withstand environmental changes and hopes the corps will play an important role in ensuring a just transition.
He also wants to see the idea of conservationists reimagined so that entire communities can adapt together.
Congressman Neguse has been pushing for the creation of a climate corps on a federal level.
“I would just like to be able to find a way to scale up their efforts and disperse more funding so that we can have more climate corps like this one not just in Colorado but around the country,” he said.
The message has been reiterated by President Joe Biden, who said the program could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The White House proposed $10 billion to be spent on the idea. Other Democratic members of Congress are calling for closer to $30 billion to be dedicated to the proposed program.
However, the idea has faced pushback from Republicans in Congress and even some of Neguse’s fellow Democrats who say they are worried about the high price tag.
For now, Neguse is paying close attention to the work the Colorado Climate Corps is undertaking, hoping it will set an example for how a federal program could work.
“The best way to convince folks that the investment is worth it is ultimately showing them that it’s been successful,” Neguse said. “The more that I can show this word to my colleagues some more I’ll be able to convince them to do the right thing and make those investments.”