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G20 summit: three big agenda items for world leaders

Topping the G-20 'to do' list is to settle on any additional economic stimulus – and whether to rein in banker bonuses. Global warming is on the table, too.

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•Climate change. Following on the heels of Tuesday's climate change summit in New York led by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, this meeting is expected to continue the discussion on the threat posed by global warming. The US Congress has yet to act on major emissions-cutting legislation, making it challenging for Mr. Obama to insist on specific cuts for other major greenhouse-gas emitters, such as China and India.

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•Financial reform. Because the recession started in the financial sector, world leaders may feel it is incumbent upon them to act in this arena. On the table may be whether to regulate or restrict bankers’ bonuses, as well as the amount of capital banks should have.

Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel is balking at continued fiscal stimulus, most of the nations are likely to agree to stay the course, says John Kirton, director of the G20 Research Group, based in Toronto.

Even as they agree to continue to stimulate their economies, the leaders are likely to begin discussions on an exit strategy that could be implemented in a year or two, says Mr. Kirton. “The scale and scope [of the stimulus] is unprecedented,” he says. The exit strategy "needs to be smart and sophisticated with a comparable complexity to how it was put together.”

Agreeing on some way to balance the world economies may be tougher, says Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington. “That proposal is not likely to go too far,” he says. “It will be resisted by the Chinese as a way to beat up on the Chinese.”

On global warming, the China is likely to remind Obama that Congress has yet to pass meaningful climate change legislation.

“Will China make some commitments, even though the cap and trade legislation has not passed both houses of Congress?" asks Steve Hayward, a fellow at AEI. “If China and the US reach a breakthrough, that will be key to an agreement" at the December climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, he says. “Otherwise, they may just reach a framework.”

If a climate change agreement is reached, Mr. Duffield says, it might “light a fire under Congress, maybe help galvanize them.”

However, he notes, these large meetings are not known for major breakthroughs.

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Pittsburgh's moment in the G20 limelight
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