Fed up waiting for a national Youth Climate Corps, hundreds of young activists applied Thursday for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Members of the Climate Emergency Unit, a nationwide advocacy group, delivered over 600 mock climate corps applications, gathered online and in-person, to the Toronto office of Marci Ien, federal minister for women and gender equality and youth.

As the world turns its attention to global climate discussions at the UN climate summit in Dubai, the group is demanding climate action on home soil.

The applications represent the aspirations of young Canadians eager to engage in meaningful work addressing the climate crisis, said campaign organizers.

“Young people are tired of waiting for an offer from this government, so we’re applying to them directly,” said Bushra Asghar, a Youth Climate Corps campaign organizer in Toronto.

“In just three months, we have hosted letter-writing parties, canvassed campuses, met with elected officials and encouraged hundreds of people to apply for jobs that don’t yet exist. Imagine how much we could achieve if our leaders and government were this serious about youth and climate.”

A Youth Climate Corps (YCC) would involve thousands of young people in climate solutions urgently needed in their communities, she added.

YCC jobs encompass emergency response, building community resilience in the face of climate disruptions and developing climate infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost renewable energy, home retrofits and public transit, the group said in a statement.

“As a 27-year-old living in Toronto, I have seen first-hand how the affordability and climate crises are impacting our mental and physical well-being. The YCC is the inspiring invitation we are fighting for because we deserve meaningful and dignified jobs,” said Asghar.

Members of the Climate Emergency Unit, a nationwide advocacy group, delivered over 600 mock climate corps applications, gathered online and in-person, to the Toronto office of Marci Ien, federal minister for women and gender equality and youth.

A national poll done by Abacus Data and released by the Climate Emergency Unit earlier this month revealed substantial support for a youth climate corps across diverse demographics and political affiliations. The survey found 78 per cent of Canadians support or can accept the idea after being briefed on the program, with only 12 per cent opposing it.

The mock job applications represent just a fraction of the broader demand, as the Abacus poll disclosed an impressive 65 per cent of individuals aged 18 to 35 would consider enrolling in a climate corps for two years. Furthermore, 15 per cent expressed interest in enrolling, which suggests about 1.3 million young Canadians are eager to actively contribute to climate initiatives.

Nicola Radatus-Smith, a volunteer organizer with the YCC campaign, said she came to Toronto to get her master's degree. However, with her experience and education — plus a significant amount of student debt — Radatus-Smith faces a job market lacking ethical green jobs that offer a living wage. "Instead, I’m forced to compromise, either pursuing an ethical job that doesn’t pay well or a stable job in an industry causing mass harm to people and the planet. This is why I’m here and advocating for a youth climate corps.

"A youth climate corps would mean I, and others facing similar challenges, don’t have to make tradeoffs. We can create good, green jobs that bring us fulfilment and livable wages."

Inspiration for the proposed corps stems, in part, from a recent announcement by United States President Joe Biden about the creation of an American Climate Corps. The U.S. initiative received an overwhelming response, with over 40,000 applications for an initial 20,000 positions. The Climate Emergency Unit argues a similar program in this country could address employment concerns, particularly in provinces heavily dependent on the fossil fuel industry.

“Once again, Canada is lagging on the creative, ambitious — but tested — solutions needed to lower emissions, climate-proof our homes and drive a new generation of workers into good, green jobs,” said Juan Vargas, an Alberta-based organizer with the Climate Emergency Unit, in a statement shared with Canada's National Observer. “This program is popular and a political winner, especially in fossil-fuel dependent provinces where youth are highly alarmed about the future of work.”

Canada’s National Observer reached out to Minister Ien's office for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Federally, Canada has a Climate Change Youth Council. According to the government's website, as climate change represents one of the most defining environmental challenges at this time, young people are at the forefront, leading the charge toward a cleaner future. The country needs youth perspectives to ensure the country's transition to a prosperous and low-carbon future is sustainable and inclusive, the website notes.

This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.

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