After planting a tree on the terribly pretty Japanese island of Hokkaido and then signing a historic, firm agreement that something has to be done about climate change by 2050, the leaders of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations sat down to an eighteen course dinner that included Chaud-froid of Kegani crab, kelp flavoured beef and asparagus, cheese, lavendar honey and caramelised nuts and eater shield and pink conger with soy sauce.

We’re not sure what a Chaud-froid is, but we do know that the G8 climate change agreement has been met with pretty underwhelmed sighs. But it’s a start, after all the US is committing for the first time to try to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 in a plan aimed at spurring a new worldwide treaty to limit global warming, reports The Washington Post.

In a statement, the G-8 leaders (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States) said they would work with other countries to “consider and adopt” the 50-percent reductions as part of a new United Nations treaty to be negotiated in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. The leaders made it clear in their statement that they expect such developing countries as China and India, whose economies are also major polluters, to play a role in reducing emissions.

In between mouthfuls of hairy crab bisque, the leaders also discussed North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, soaring oil and food prices and what to do about Zimbabwe.

But climate change has dominated the conversation, and the leaders also promised to make more immediate cuts in emissions over the next two decades, though they didn’t offer a numerical target. And there’s the rub, really. As Ben Wikler, Campaign Director for campaign group AVAAZ told The Guardian, “In 2020 Mr Fukuda will be 114-years-old. And it’s difficult to think that his promises about 2050 are meaningful unless he tells us what he’s going to do right now.”

Here’s a wrap:

Not good enough on climate. It is true that all nations must be included in a new global emission-cutting agreement. And all must accept their responsibilities. After all, the dire consequences of climate change will be felt universally. But unless those nations that are best placed to begin the difficult work of reducing emissions accept the role of leadership, catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Despite all the spin from Hokkaido, what we have had from the G8 is another staggering abdication of leadership. — The Independent UK

The fine print on the climate change change. No one in Hokkaido last night was hailing the deal struck by the G8 on climate change as a breakthrough. Not the G8 – and certainly not the deeply underwhelmed group of five developing countries invited along to the summit. Indeed, it took some close textual analysis to spot why the declaration issued by the eight leading industrial nations moved things forward from last year’s get-together in Germany. Last year the summit agreed to “seriously consider” cutting carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. This year the G8 said that they, together with the leading developing nations such as China and India, would “consider and adopt” the 50% goal. According to British sources in Hokkaido that little word “adopt” represented a concession from George Bush, who has moved substantially from the hardline position he was adopting three years ago. — Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

G8 understands that something needs to be done. The world’s richest nations agreeing that global greenhouse emissions should be cut in half by 2050 is a step forward, no question. But its importance should not be overstated: no one has signed on to a new binding commitment. In reality, it is little more than an understanding that something needs doing. Polls suggest a majority of people in many developed countries could have told their leaders that some time ago. The climate change section of the summit seems a case of lowering expectations and meeting them. Despite last year’s G8 summit pledging to seriously consider a 50% cut, climate envoys went out of the way in the lead-up to the Hokkaido meeting to say no agreement was likely. — Adam Morton, The Age

Gordon Brown shock tactics force tough Zimbabwe stance. The United States will force a vote this week to place UN sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leaders after Russia’s new President joined other G8 leaders yesterday in threatening “further steps” against Robert Mugabe’s Government. The decision to force a showdown in the 15-nation UN Security Council followed two impassioned debates at the rich nations’ G8 summit at Lake Toya, Japan. British officials said that Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, used shock tactics to win support for a tough G8 statement refusing to recognise Mr Mugabe’s rule. He was said to have pulled fellow leaders aside to show them a horrific photograph of a driver for Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change who was brutally murdered last month. He told them that every day the world failed to act, similar tragedies would follow. — Times online

G8: less important than ever before? In the good old days, summit meetings were held in big cities — London, Tokyo, Venice, Toronto, Paris and so on. Ever since the 2001 meeting in Genoa, which attracted more than a quarter of a million protesters, the leaders of the Group of Eight have held their yearly confabs in ever-more remote locations. When leaders met in the resort town of Heiligendamm, Germany, last year, only 25,000 protesters showed up. This year’s meeting, in Toyako on Hokkaido Island, has so far drawn far fewer. The resort strategy appears to be working. Of course, there might be another reason why fewer protestors are bothering with this year’s G8 summit: It matters less. It’s not hard to see why. Half of the leaders involved — Gordon Brown, George W. Bush, Yasuo Fukuda and Nikolas Sarkozy — are deeply unpopular at home. Beyond these individuals, however, the G8 countries are simply less powerful than they used to be. At this rate, a philosophical question might be in the offing: What if the great powers held a summit and no one cared? — Daniel W Drezner, Newsweek

Yummo Just two days ago, Gordon Brown was urging us all to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions. But yesterday the Prime Minister and other world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.

The dinner, and a six-course lunch, at the summit of leading industrialised nations on the island of Hokkaido, included delicacies such as caviar, milkfed lamb, sea urchin and tuna, with champagne and wines flown in from Europe and the U.S. — The Daily Mirror

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