Washington can sometimes feel like Ground Zero for the effects of climate change, with sea level rise, droughts, wildfires and heat waves threatening our state. Even as the U.S. must prioritize aggressive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also better prepare to deal with the fallout from years of inaction.

The Climate Resilience Workforce Act would help develop climate change action plans, promote green jobs and focus on marginalized communities that bear the brunt of a warming planet. It is vital legislation that Congress should support.

Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, the proposal seeks to create millions of climate resilience jobs through grants to state, county, city and tribal governments, as well as to labor groups and nonprofits.

These jobs would fall under three categories related to climate change: mitigation, preparation and adaptation, and disaster preparedness, recovery and rebuilding. Think health care providers working with front-line communities impacted by air quality problems, people tending to forest health or wildlife firefighters, workers preparing structures to be flood resilient or helping clean up and reconstruction efforts after a storm.

The bill would also establish a White House Office of Climate Resilience, which would be tasked with administering grants, supporting compliance and developing a national climate resilience action plan, with annual reports to Congress on its effectiveness.

Employment in climate resilience jobs or participation in workforce training programs would not be limited by immigration status nor by prior involvement with the criminal justice system.


“My bill creates an equitable and skilled workforce with millions of good-paying union jobs, centered in our most impacted communities, necessary to prepare for and respond to the effects of climate crisis, and build a stronger, greener and more resilient society,” Jayapal said.

The congresswoman’s proposal is the kind of bold measure needed to address the impact of climate change, but it is not a substitute for the transformational investment included in President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act.

Repeatedly written off for dead, that piece of legislation remains on life support, tied to the Democrats’ narrow control of Congress and the whims of Sen. Joe Manchin. The West Virginia Democrat seems to once again be open to negotiations, reportedly willing to endorse climate change provisions in exchange for U.S. “energy independence,” which amounts to increased oil and gas production.

The climate change measures that are part of Build Back Better — more than $500 billion aimed at moving America toward decarbonization — are critical in the long term, so that is a bitter compromise to be reviewed and debated.

Whatever happens, any delay in weaning off fossil fuels will only continue to exacerbate climate disasters — and strengthen the need for Jayapal’s bill.