London, England — I am at the cavernous Excel Centre in the outskirts of Canary Wharf with a press corps of thousands (but only 28 from Canada) who, like me, have gone through an inscrutable two-bus switch and security process to get here April 2.

But for hours, a small spate of press conferences and a few carefully managed photo ops are really all there is to feed actual news appetites. So we’re all munching on free sandwiches and pounding out stories and broadcasts about… well, mainly we’re guessing what the story will be once the final G20 communiqué’s out.

By the end of the day, it’s such a hype-fest that Brit PM Gordon Brown’s enthusiastic rundown of final agreements — on everything from reforming the global banking sector, controlling shadow banking, hedge funds, credit rating agencies and CEO compensation to kick-starting fair and sustainable international trade — has the bullshit detectors beeping pretty loud.

“The end of the Washington Consensus,” he calls it. “A new world order.” While the rhetoric soars, details are sketchy, and a lot of us are wondering just how many times these same dollars are being counted.

But here’s a surprise. Once I’m planted in row 2 for Barack Obama’s media debrief, I end up feeling differently. Unlike his UK host, the U.S. prez plays down overinflated proclamations of crisis-defeating success in favour of a more “time will tell” approach.

His promise is that if they haven’t succeeded with this meeting, they will keep meeting until they do. In a day filled with obvious grabs for political points, his signature humility is both smart and inspiring.

It helps that when he breaks into a smile — it’s like the blinds opening on a sunny day. But he’s also able to put across the fact that these leaders from Europe, China, India, Russia and Brazil are negotiating across century-wide political and economic fault lines. Given the inclusiveness of the gathering, they really got some stuff into their final communiqué.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the leaders came, saw and, if a trillion dollars of new funding to put toward shoring up the global credit crisis means anything any more, they actually did come to some agreements on coordinated action.

Don’t get me wrong. Tripling the money (to $750 billion) that the International Monetary Fund can use to lend and therefore call the shots in developing countries is profoundly worrisome. But not having money available at this time would be even more devastating.

Making his signature point about investing in poor countries, Bob Geldoff breezes through the media centre a few hours earlier. Mobbed by mics, he talks about the importance of making a real commitment to the developing world.

And he can easily call in self-interest to make the case. He points, for example, to the real possibility of eastern European countries finding themselves bankrupt. “That wouldn’t just be their problem. It would take Europe down,” he says, referring to what happened to West Germany after the Berlin Wall fell and the country struggled to integrate the failed East German economy.

In a giant “be careful what you wish for” globalized world, we are truly all one and one for all.

Meanwhile, a photo-op is where Stephen Harper scores his highest G20 profile by failing to appear for the official G20 “family portrait.” Nobody notices until the picture-taking moment is almost over. Canada is a non-issue in this global grouping, not because Harper is right-wing but mainly because he is so 20th century. The right-wing presidents of France and Germany make their mark as proponents of major new financial regulation, especially around curbing tax havens and their bank secrecy laws. Hey, I’m impressed.

Despite all the hype, the G20’s ascendance and its thrust toward global governance brings us now fully into the 21st C. Well before the grand finale, I listen to UK Financial Secretary Stephen Timms promise that tax havens are a thing of the past. “The era of bank secrecy is over,” he says. Switzerland has purportedly buckled on the thorny issue, something no one could have predicted six months ago.

But the $1 trillion for the developing world, which has long been an afterthought — even though it is mostly for the IMF — is certainly the big news. The really bad news, and this is despite the “low-carbon” verbiage of the final communiqué, is that the environment is the loser.

Certainly, the UK’s Ed Miliband, minister for Energy and Climate Change, used his briefing to spin this G20 meet as an amazing prelude to Copenhagen, the December session where a new Kyoto will be negotiated. Was he just putting on a happy face?

The clock is still ticking down to midnight for our smart and stupid little species. Let’s do our bit to see the idea of meaningful global responsibility take hold and spill into real substance at that table. If it doesn’t, then the promising gains of this G20 meeting will be a short-term fix on the way to oblivion.