group of protesters holding sign saying "Sinema, be brave, fight for us" Sunrise Movement members at Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix on July 15
(Photo by Jessica Swarner)

“We need to fight for the future of Arizona, and that means that our senators need to be fighting for us in DC.”

Chapters of the Sunrise Movement rallied across the country earlier this month to drum up support for the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), a government program that would employ Americans in jobs that alleviate climate change. 

The Tempe chapter held an event in Margaret T. Hance Park on July 15 in Phoenix and unfurled a banner reading “Sinema: No Climate, No Deal” over Interstate 10.  

Emily Kirkland, a member of Sunrise Movement and executive director of the nonprofit Progress Arizona, said the CCC could make a big difference in the state. 

“Here in Arizona, there’s so much that we need to do in terms of dealing with the conditions that make these wildfires possible, restoring open space and public land, converting to clean energy,” Kirkland told The Copper Courier. “There’s a lot to be done, and so this is a program that would give people pathways to be part of that work and provide a good salary and a pathway to a career as part of that.” 

What is the Civilian Climate Corps? 

The CCC is meant to be a modern and climate-focused version of the Civilian Conservation Corps included in then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression. 

President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January calling on the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to begin working on a framework for the program, with $10 billion to fund the CCC earmarked in the American Jobs Plan. But negotiations with Republicans in Congress resulted in funding for the CCC to be cut from the proposal entirely.

However, it’s still possible the program could get the money it needs. The Senate is looking to pass a number of bills via budget reconciliation. Bills passed in this way need only a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to override a filibuster. 

RELATED: 10 Activists Arrested After Protesting Outside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s Office to End Filibuster

Democrats have included the program in the current $3.5 trillion budget framework, but it’s unclear if moderates Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will support the proposal.

Sinema’s deputy press secretary Pablo A. Sierra-Carmona told The Copper Courier the senator has not yet weighed in on the budget reconciliation proposal, as she’s waiting for more details from the Budget Committee. 

Lawmakers Have Made Other Proposals

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have laid out a plan for a much bigger CCC program they want to see pass—their proposal is estimated to cost $132 billion over the course of 10 years. 

Their legislation calls for 1.5 million Americans to be employed through the program within five years. 

The proposal also specifies that the jobs offered would have to pay at least $15 per hour, offer healthcare benefits, and long-term career opportunities. 

“The Civilian Climate Corps will provide an opportunity for millions of Americans from every walk of life to earn a good wage while serving their communities and training to transform our economy,” Markey said in a press release. “Rebuilding and strengthening our neighborhoods—especially those that have been devastated by climate change and racist housing and health care policies—and supporting our labor force must be our highest priority in the months and years to come.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) laid out another plan that, at $9 billion, would provide less funding than than Biden’s ask. 

What’s at Risk With Climate Change

Activists said they want to see Sinema and the rest of Congress treat climate change like the urgent issue it is, and not agree to a budget without significant funding allocated toward environmental efforts. 

Kirkland of Sunrise Movement said she was inspired to join the group after seeing one of her favorite hiking spots—the First Water trailhead in the Superstition Mountains—burned down in a wildfire

“The cactuses and the palo verdes and the mesquites and all these beautiful plants were gone, and the animals and the birds were gone, and there was just ashes,” Kirkland said. 

She moved to Phoenix from Boston in 2017 and said even in just four years, she’s seen worrying signs of climate change. 

Last year was Phoenix’s hottest summer and driest monsoon season on record. And in June, the city broke another record when it recorded six consecutive days at 115 degrees or above. 

“I think we need to fight for our future. There are so many of us here for whom Phoenix is home. I love this state. It’s so beautiful and the communities that I’m part of here are really important to me,” Kirkland said. “And we need to fight for the future of Arizona, and that means that our senators need to be fighting for us in DC.”

CONTINUE READING: After the Flames: Santa Catalina Mountains Rebounding From Bighorn Fire a Year Ago