Non-binding yet somehow "meaningful" agreement reached at Copenhagen

In case you’re wondering why China snubbed Obama this morning, it’s simple. They want to cheat on their emissions caps and he doesn’t want to let them, so he quite reasonably insisted that they join everyone else in submitting to international emissions monitoring. The result: Histrionic Chinese claims of the “huge offense” caused by his speech followed by a walkout.

But now everyone’s back at the table and the world has, at the eleventh hour, been saved. Sort of.

Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called “meaningful” but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here…

The accord drops the expected goal of concluding a binding international treaty by the end of 2010, which leaves the implementation of its provisions uncertain. It is likely to undergo many months, perhaps years, of additional negotiation before it emerges in any internationally enforceable form…

The deal came after a dramatic moment in which Mr. Obama burst into a meeting of the Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders, according to senior administration officials. Chinese protocol officers noisily protested, and Mr. Obama said he did not want them negotiating in secret. The intrusion led to new talks that cemented key terms of the deal, American officials said.

No details yet about what was decided on international monitoring, but Tapper has this:

“For the first time these emerging economies have agreed to take significant action to combat climate change,” the official said, adding that the leaders of the four nations have agreed to the core components President Obama laid out in his address this morning upon arriving in Denmark –mitigation, transparency, and financing…

Transparency, he defined as having “a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we’re living up to our obligations.” An agreement without that would “be a hollow victory,” he said.

Two possibilities: Either they’re going to impose some sort of inspection process or they’re going to rely on participating nations to self-report on their emissions. If it’s the latter, then China’s numbers should be as reliable as, oh, say, Iran’s reporting on its nuclear program. But then, since this is all non-binding, what does it matter which system it is?

Grahamnesty, who’s backed Obama on cap and trade, said just today that “The only way we’ll be successful in America is for countries like China and India to make an equivalent commitment. We’re not going to unilaterally disarm.” Without a binding treaty and inspections to keep China honest, unilateral disarmament is precisely what this is. (Gordon Brown’s “plan B” agreement, which would have excluded China, would have been an even more egregious example.) No wonder The One was so adamant about monitoring: Without some sort of fig-leaf concession on that, he didn’t have a prayer of getting this through the Senate. Now, thanks to today’s, ahem, “unprecedented breakthrough,” he’s barely got a prayer. Good work, champ.

To see what sort of pathetic spin he’s been reduced to about the non-binding nature of the agreement, check this out. Exit question: How many times this year has he stood up somewhere and insisted that the “time for talking is over”? He said it today about climate change, on July 21 about ObamaCare, and on February 5 about the stimulus. One out of three ain’t bad, I guess. Am I forgetting any others?

Update: Just how broad an agreement is this? Quote: “It’s not clear how many nations — particularly poorer nations who felt shut out of the process — were included in the final deal or how they will react to the announcement.”