"Suicide pact;" "superimposing an unjust deal": A Danish proposal at the Copenhagen climate summit elicited outrage from Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, Sudan's ambassador to the UN. The outrage is predictable, but in the context of international negotiations, it is hard to brook. The G77 group of developing nations has done itself few favours by choosing a country led by an alleged war criminal to carry its banner. Copenhagen needs candour, and it also needs leaders who can serve as honest brokers for their constituents.
The fault lines are clear. Developed countries feel aggrieved that emissions cuts are expected only of them, while developing countries want an unfettered shot at the prosperity enjoyed by the former. The Denmark proposal starts to bridge the gap; one key tradeoff would be the creation of a mechanism for assisting developing countries, in exchange for an expectation that most developing countries cut their own emissions. It is a candid presentation of what developed countries are and are not prepared to do.
Mr. Di-Aping's was being more disingenuous than candid in his bluster, and he failed to give the idea the credible hearing it deserved. He called a goal to limit global warming to 2 degrees, something that has informed most of the pre-negotiations, "certain death for Africa." There are clearly deep misunderstandings on each side.
What is difficult for developed countries to understand is the choice of Sudan as a standard-bearer in the first place. The G77 elected Sudan as its chair in September, 2008, when its genocidal campaign in Darfur was already well known. By March, 2009, Omar al-Bashir, the country's president, became the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, all related to the Darfur attacks that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. Mr. al-Bashir is a wanted man, and his attendance at Copenhagen is unlikely; Sudanese leadership cannot be credible.
And that is regrettable, because countries need to bring moral force and ideas to the table. Indeed, despite the posturing and feigned outrage, there has been an admirable flurry of proposals which have begun the truth-telling process necessary for successful negotiations. Yesterday, Tuvalu, China and a group that includes Britain, Norway, Mexico and Australia all brought separate proposals for new agreements or for mechanisms that address key outstanding questions.
Next week, leaders of countries will have to take these truths and craft a meaningful political agreement. But it will not do to have a major faction directed by an absent suspected war criminal. Canada has been maligned as a "fossil" in international climate negotiations. Sudan, surely, is more deserving of the label.