Dickens pledges to get Atlanta on track for climate goals

Mayor-elect Andre Dickens of Atlanta speaks with reporters after attending meetings at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens says he’s committed to getting the city on track to meet its climate change goal to only use renewable energy by 2035.

At a town hall with local environmentalists Monday night, the mayor said he supported Atlanta’s green energy ambitions as a councilman, and he continues to now.

“I understand that this plan can help to create new jobs, reduce energy costs, help drive creation of more affordable housing and help to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Dickens touted past climate-related achievements in Atlanta — the addition of solar panels to more than a dozen city buildings, and the expansion of sidewalks and bike lanes.

Guests tour a solar panel project built on 10 acres of farmland that former President Jimmy Carter owns in his hometown of Plains, Ga., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens says he’s committed to green energy initiatives. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

He said he wants to reduce municipal buildings’ reliance on fossil fuels and continue a program that challenges owners of commercial buildings to improve their efficiency. And he wants the city to be ready for electric vehicles.

The mayor said he plans to work with Georgia Power to reduce people’s energy costs, since Atlanta has a relatively high rate of people who spend an outsize amount of their incomes on energy bills. He also plans to address high utility bills with a program to help people get efficiency upgrades on their homes.

“Climate matters in my administration,” he said. “I’m an engineer, I get the science of it. I’m a community member, I get the community impacts of it. I’m a 34-day old mayor, so I get the necessity of it, and the challenges of it.”

Dickens didn’t commit to how he would staff the city’s office of resilience, which used to have many more people working in it. He said he’s more concerned about the outcomes than titles people hold.

He also didn’t comment on the new police training center planned for the Old Atlanta Prison Farm — a project that activists say runs counter to the city’s environmental ambitions.