UN’s new big-thinking, high-level sustainability panel revealed

A new panel of on global sustainability was revealed on Monday by Ban Ki-moon, United Nations’ secretary-general, asked to ”think big” about ways to “lift people out of poverty while tackling climate change and ensuring that economic development is environmentally friendly”.

Quite a task. Excuse the cynicism, but why not add world peace to the list? Just for good measure.

The 21-person unpaid panel is a mix of serving and former leaders and ministers, including Han Seung-soo, former prime minister of the Republic of Korea, and Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayid Al Nahayan, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society from developed and developing countries.

It will be co-chaired by Tarja Halonen, president of Finland, and Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa.

Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia, is also set to join. In the past he has called climate change “the great moral challenge of our generation”, signed his country up for the Kyoto Protocol and fought, unsuccessfully, to pass through carbon trading laws in Australia.

Mr Rudd lost the top job in June to Julia Gillard, his then-deputy and now Australia’s first female prime minister. There has been speculation that she has promised Mr Rudd the foreign minister post should Labour, their party, win in a closely-fought federal election on August 21.

All this has got Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, quite hot and bothered.

“Plainly he’s going to be a part-time minister,” Mr Abbott told reporters. “It’s just not good enough. Australians deserve a full-time government.”

Evidently he has over-estimated how much time Mr Rudd et al have penciled in to come up with a plan to simultaneously tackle poverty and save the planet – the group is expected to meet just three times before presenting their report at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Seems like they have already started to ”think big” – at least about what can be achieved in three meetings and some 21-way conference calls.

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