Copenhagen doesn't need Climategate to self-destruct

Even though delegates to the climate conference in Copenhagen are basically ignoring Climategate and its implications, it appears that any hope of crafting a "meaningful" treaty may be slipping away.

Yesterday, developing nations got themselves into a snit and walked out of negotiations because of the lack of hard targets for cutting emissions among the rich countries. It isn't that our third world friends are so enamored of saving the planet as it is the fact that the higher the cuts, the more money they get to "offset" the cost of climate change.

But the real fireworks have been reserved for the spectacle of the US and China going at each other over verification procedures for emission cuts. As this New York Times article by John Broder and James Kanter points out, the Chinese are uncomfortable about anyone looking over their shoulder:

Negotiators for the United States and China have been trading public accusations in recent days and making little progress in negotiations on the critical issue of treaty compliance.

Chinese negotiators have said little during formal negotiation sessions here, where they have been working in partnership with the developing countries. They have made clear that they do not expect money from the industrial powers to help make the shift to a more energy-efficient economy.

But they will not accept any outside monitors to ensure that they are indeed making the changes that they have promised to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted per unit of economic output.

"I think there's no doubt that China, when it says 40 to 45 percent reduction in energy intensity, is serious about that," said Ed Miliband, the British secretary of state for energy and climate change. The more challenging hurdle, he said, is finding a way that China can prove to the outside world that it is reducing its emissions by the amount it claims.

He Yafei, the Chinese vice foreign minister, said China's laws would guarantee compliance.

"This is a matter of principle," even if it scuttles the talks, he said in an interview with The Financial Times.

It would be political suicide for Obama to return from Copenhagen with an unverifiable agreement. And it is amusing to note that China's "laws" also guarantee freedoms for the people that are honored in the breach - if at all. So much for trusting the Communists adherence to their own laws.

In short, it appears that the delegates hardly need a scandal that calls into question the very concept of what they are negotiating to prevent when they can't even decide how much they want to screw western consumers of energy.

But don't worry. No doubt we will hear of Obama's magical presence acting as a soothing balm on the delegates while they agree to an "historic" accord on climate change.