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Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion Ltd., has been appointed to a new 21-member UN panel on global sustainability. ((Matt York/Associated Press))

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has launched a new panel on global sustainability that includes Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie.

Balsillie, co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ont., is one of 21 members on the UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability that will come up with a new blueprint for sustainable growth.

"I am pleased to help this esteemed group develop new ideas for prosperity in a low-carbon world," Balsillie, who tried last year to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, said in a release Monday. "This is a critically important initiative for all countries …."

The panel is intended to "think big, to be bold and also practical," Ban said in a news release. "The time for narrow agendas, narrow interests and narrow thinking is over. The challenges of the 21st century require nothing less."

In addition to panel co-chairs Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma, other members include:

  • Susan Rice, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and member of the U.S. cabinet.
  • Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development.
  • Julia Carabias, environmentalist and Mexico's former secretary of the environment.
  • Connie Hedegaard, European Union Commissioner for Climate Action.

In launching the panel, the secretary general said in the release that the accelerating pace of climate change has injected fresh urgency into efforts to provide a dignified life for all on a planet under severe and growing strain. 

Climate change is a prime example, but it is far from the only sign of planetary distress, Ban said. Water scarcity, the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems are others, the release said.

The panel will issue its final report by the end of 2011 and it will help intergovernmental processes, including preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 and the annual meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the release said.