G8 and Beyond

It's only day two of the G8 summit and already expectations have been lowered as the world's largest developing nations, including China and India, refused to commit to goals that will help eliminate heat trapping gases by 2050, and economies of the five fastest developing nations issued a statement saying the overall state of the world economy is troubling and, "submits the developing countries to an inordinate burden resulting from a crisis they did not initiate."

The two developments, in only the first day of meetings, shows mixed results for President Obama in his first G8 summit. While the White House is pointing to agreements made by the G8 leaders on Iran and North Korea, the climate change issue still hangs over the summit as a dark grey cloud waiting to be resolved. While the world leaders issued language on a broad agreement, the Obama administration shrugged off the lack of specific details, instead focusing on the long-term goals and vague commitments.

"They agreed to join with other countries to achieve a 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050 and a goal of 80 percent reduction by developed countries by 2050. They referred to the two degree centigrade as being an important benchmark for their efforts," Mike Froman, Deputy Assistant National Security Adviser for Economic Affairs told reporters in a briefing. " And they called upon the major emerging economies to take quantifiable actions to collectively reduce emissions significantly below "business as usual" by a specified year."

China and India, two countries with some of the highest carbon outputs refused to sign on to the statement that has them cutting their carbon output by 50 percent by 2050, and they argue those cuts will slow their overall economic growth. The deal suffered another blow when, after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed the deal, his top economic adviser said the targets were probably not attainable. The White House remained optimistic. "You'll find that in the Major Economies Forum tomorrow (Wednesday), there will be further steps taken by both developed and developing countries, and I think by the time these meetings are over you'll see that there's been a significant step forward in dealing with the climate change issues, and in support of the U.N. negotiations toward Copenhagen," Froman said.

Meanwhile, the leaders did manage to create some language on nuclear non proliferation and have issued what the White House is calling a ‘strong statement' on Iran. "They deplore post-electoral violence. They make clear that interference with the media, unjustified detentions of journalists, recent arrests of foreign nationals are unacceptable," Undersecretary for State William Burns told reporters. " It stresses also the sense of urgency that I think all eight leaders feel about the nuclear issue, and it highlights both the deep concern about Iran's continued failure to meet its international obligations and the importance of Iran cooperating fully with the IAEA and complying with the Security Council resolutions without further delay."

In addition to the issue of nuclear weapons in Iran, the White House issued a formal announcement for a nuclear security summit for March 2010, even getting Medevdev to sign on to attend. "The bottom line was that all eight leaders, all eight delegations ultimately signed up to what is a pretty strong statement, " Burns said. "Significant in what it says directly about recent events in Iran, as well as about, I think, underscoring a sense of urgency about the nuclear issue."

The G8 leaders will come together again in September in Pittsburgh as part of a larger G20 summit, where the focus will once again turn to the global economy crisis and financial meltdown.