THE good news in the world's fight to save the ozone layer is that China's consumption of harmful chlorine compounds or CFCs will remain small through the end of the century. The bad news is that the Soviet Union, China, and Japan are dragging their feet in curbing CFC production.
Sen. Albert Gore (D) of Tennesse, an advocate of a rapid phase-out of CFCs, told the Monitor that this go-slow position showed resistance within the powerful Soviet planning bureaucracy to shifting industrial production away from these widely used ``luxury'' chemicals.
In a pointed reference to the Soviet position, Mostafa Tolba, head of the United Nations Environment Program, told the London meeting that the world should immediately ``declare a truce in its assault on the atmosphere.... We cannot wait for scientific certainty before beginning to act.''
Japan supports controls on emissions rather than production, saying it can safely recycle CFCs. Observers say that since Japan dominates the world's semi-conductor industry, which uses large amounts of CFCs as a cleaning solvent, it should cooperate in finding substitutes and phase out production.
China has made its signing of the Montreal agreement's CFC limit contingent on the acceptance of an annex which it says would take into account the special needs of the developing countries.
Liu Ming-pu, vice chairman of China's State Commission for Environmental Protection, says the agreement needs a ``more equitable formula'' for calculating allowed levels of CFC consumption for the third world and must include means for assisting those countries in adopting alternatives.
China has proposed an International Ozone Protection Fund financed by major producers of CFCs in the developed countries. The fund would aid research into safe substitutes and transfer ``free of charge'' these substitutes to the developing world.