IT will “hardly be unhelpful” to the Welsh economy if global warming gives Wales a Spanish or Californian climate, Rhodri Morgan said tonight.
He told an audience of business people that a warmer Wales would have a competitive edge over other parts of Britain.
The First Minister said Wales faced problems in adapting its industrial economy to the threat of climate change and warned of “difficult negotiations ahead for Wales“.
It needed to focus on hi-tech businesses and the knowledge economy instead of traditional manufacturing or it would lose out to China and India.
Speaking in the Assembly’s Senedd in Cardiff Bay, he underlined his opposition to capping carbon emissions and said there were “positive aspects” to inevitable climate change.
He said: “If the predictions of hot drought-ridden summers similar to 2003 combined with wet stormy winters are correct, we will find it easier to arrange the storage capacity for the extra water we will need to cover frequent droughts, than will the South East of England. The contrast with Spain will be even more striking.
“If our climate in Wales is going to be more like Spain’s or southern California’s in the summer, then Spain will be more like the Sahara.
“If that is the kind of climate shift we cannot avoid having by 2050, it is hardly going to be unhelpful to Wales’s competitive position.”
Businesses would leave Wales if targets were imposed on their greenhouse gasses, he said.
“For instance, a cap on CO2 emissions for Wales could easily mean plants leaving Wales for less regulated environments elsewhere, rather than improving their energy efficiency.
“But it is the latter that is in the best interests of the world’s environment as well as the Welsh economy, rather than the former.”
Wales had to upgrade its workforce and invest in niche areas to stay ahead, or by 2050 “China will be the world’s factory, India will be the world’s office, Brazil will be the world’s farm, Australia will be the world’s quarry, America will be the world’s weapons producer, Africa, sadly, will be the world’s graveyard and Europe, wait for it, will be the world’s old people’s home“.
During First Minister’s Questions in the chamber, Mr Morgan was pressed on his speech last night.
Plaid Cymru AM Janet Davies asked him why he was opposed to capping carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr Morgan said Plaid had shown "extraordinary naivety" in its policy of offering to cut emissions by 3% a year.
Welsh industry was already subject to EU policy on greenhouse gases, he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Mike German said the First Minister had shown "amazing complacency".
"Don’t you find it uncomfortable being on the same side as George Bush on this argument?" he said.
Mr Morgan stood by his comments about the consequences of global warming not being "entirely unhelpful" to Wales.
"That’s not entirely unhelpful. That’s what I said last night and that’s what I will repeat now."
Mr German said: "Don’t you think that Wales should be setting an example on this?"
The First Minister replied: "Your argument is complete tosh.
"Raising your voice doesn’t make your unscientific remarks any more scientific."
Some aspects of climate change were unavoidable and the emphasis had to be on how Wales could adapt to them, he said.
The First Minister asked: "Do you or do you not accept that there is a lot of climate change built into the system?
"It’s already in the system, nothing you can do about it."