For the keynote lecture of the Pierhead Sessions – a series of events coordinated to mark the relaunch of the red-brick Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay – environmental activist George Monbiot has been booked by the National Assembly to deliver a talk on the current state of the climate change struggle. As one would expect, the audience is filled with the sort of well-intentioned, corduroy-wearing people who, though in no need of a wake-up call regarding the plight of the planet, very much appreciate having their opinions reasserted in likeminded company.
The Welsh Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing Jane Davidson started off proceedings with a speech outlining George’s exploits – sentenced to life-imprisonment in absentia in Indonesia, pronounced dead after falling into a malarial stupour in Kenya. For his part, Monbiot delivered an authoritative and compelling lecture. Public belief in climate science is on the wane, we were told, and this is comparable to the denial felt by a terminally ill patient receiving their diagnosis. Seated in an armchair, his manner was one of impassioned calm: slowly building the case that our governments – both here and in Westminster – have started promisingly, but have a long way to go. The point he built towards was that we, in Wales, are perfectly poised to strike an example to the rest of the world in terms of decisive action to combat climate change: a small nation with a strong sense of identity, and one who played an integral part in the industrial revolution that led to the situation we currently find ourselves in.
Will tonight win over any Top Gear fans in the audience? Seems unlikely: any climate change doubters present could feasibly suggest that Wales would achieve carbon-neutrality far quicker if only someone could work out a way of harnessing Monbiot’s aura of moral superiority, a renewable resource if ever there was one. Will the audience heed his calls? Well, they were busy doing so anyway, but they no doubt leave tonight with resolve hardened and a new arsenal of arguments in the war against climate change sceptics.