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Mayor Dickens Names Atlanta's First Chief Sustainability Officer

Atlanta Office of Sustainability and Resiliency incoming Chief Sustainability Officer Chandra Farley

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is putting more power behind his green initiatives.

The mayor named Chandra Farley the city's new chief sustainability officer, a Cabinet-level position at the Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, which was established in 2015 by Mayor Kasim Reed

Farley, who previously led energy justice consulting firm ReSolve Consulting and is the former director of the Partnership for Southern Equity's Just Energy Portfolio, is being tasked with expanding Atlanta's sustainability and resiliency efforts, Dickens announced Tuesday.

“The world is experiencing a climate crisis, and our administration understands the sizeable impact rising energy costs, barriers to food accessibility and other hardships have on communities across Atlanta, particularly those in historically under-served areas,” Dickens said in a press release.

Farley, who will take over the agency's reins on Sept. 29, will seek to update the city's comprehensive climate and energy plan, align it with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and create food system and procurement plans. Dickens' previous director of sustainability, John Seydel, was named deputy chief sustainability officer.

Dickens' moves come as experts are raising red flags that climate change has the potential to disrupt the municipal bond market — an essential financing tool for cities and localities to fund capital-intensive projects like infrastructure work — when disasters affect governments' ability to pay their debt service.

Within 10 years, 15% of the more than $4T in outstanding municipal bonds will be issued by cities that could see as much as 1% of their gross domestic product lost due to climate disasters, according to a 2019 Blackstone Investment Institute study.

“To function well, the muni market requires accurate risk-based pricing to ensure steady investor demand and low volatility. In the absence of comprehensive and accurate climate disclosures, state and local governments may have trouble finding buyers for future issuances or be forced to pay substantially higher interest rates to attract the same level of investor demand,” Center for American Progress Director of Infrastructure Policy Kevin DeGood wrote in a 2019 paper.

“With Chandra and John’s leadership, I look forward to expanding Atlanta’s role in building a smart, sustainable future for generations of Atlantans,” Dickens said in a statement.