Deal, Or No Deal?

Despite the assertion by President Obama that “We have made a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough. For the first time in history, all of the major economies have come together to take action [on global warming],” there seems to be some discrepancy among several in the international community as to exactly what was agreed to.

“If there had been a deal, the prime minister [of Sweden] and the president [of the Commission] would have been here. They still have not formalised the deal,” said Roberta Alenius, spokeswoman for the EU presidency.

The Europeans aren’t the only ones left scratching their heads.

Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese head of the G77 group of developing countries, said the US-backed plan represented the “lowest level of ambition” and would be devastating for the world’s poor. “This is an idea not a deal,” he said.

Part of the concern being expressed among the international community not represented in Obama’s deal with China, India, Brazil and South Africa is that nothing agreed to by the five parties is legally binding.

Obama suggested Friday’s agreement among the five key countries would be adopted by the larger summit in its closing hours.

“I am leaving before the final vote,” he said. “We feel confident we are moving in the direction of a final accord.”

If the countries had waited to reach a full, binding agreement, “then we wouldn’t make any progress,” Obama said. In that case, he said, “there might be such frustration and cynicism that rather than taking one step forward we ended up taking two steps back.”

One question which must be asked is whether, if Obama’s agreement is not legally binding, if it would be subject to ratification by the Senate. While any enforcement of his deal would ostensibly depend on legislative approval, which is highly unlikely, the move by Obama’s EPA to regulate carbon dioxide throws the practicalities of the issue into suspicion. Will the president direct the EPA to proceed on the basis of a non-binding Copenhagen agreement? And if so, will a Democrat-controlled Congress block attempts to prevent the executive usurpation of legislative power until the Republicans retake control in the 2010 elections? And what kind of damage to America’s tottering economy can be done in that interim period?

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