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The European Union has proposed stronger restrictions for developing countries on the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), one of the alternatives to ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), government sources said Tuesday.

The proposal was made ahead of a U.N. conference for signatory states of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international pact to protect the ozone layer, slated for December in the African country of Burkina Faso.

HCFCs are used as coolants in products including air conditioners and as foaming agents in refrigerators, in place of CFCs, the production and consumption of which were banned in developed countries in 1995.

Developing countries, however, have just begun to curb production of CFCs, and new restrictions on HCFC production may invite severe opposition from those countries at the international convention.

The current restrictions place upper limits on the annual production of HCFCs, based on the quantity of CFCs and HCFCs produced in the respective countries in 1989.

They will go into effect in 2004 for industrialized countries and in 2016 for developing nations.

The restriction also stipulates that developing countries ban all production of HCFCs by 2040.

The new restrictions proposed by the EU call on developing countries to start implementing cutbacks in 2007 instead of 2016, and to dramatically reduce HCFC production between 2014 and 2030.

The production of HCFCs is expected to increase in the near future in developing countries, given that they started restricting CFC production in June and are expected to completely abolish CFCs by 2010.

Japan has reservations about the proposal. A Ministry of International Trade and Industry official said, “We think a cutback in the production of CFCs is the utmost priority for developing countries, and we would like to discuss whether the proposed regulation on HCFCs would impair their efforts to curb CFCs.”

Illegal logging hit

Greenpeace issued a scathing critique of the Group of Eight nations’ efforts to tackle illegal logging Tuesday in Tokyo, while activists from the group boarded a ship in Kobe transporting timber belonging to a Japanese firm the group claimed purchased illegally logged timber.

An international team of Greenpeace activists in Tokyo said they had obtained an unreleased report on the enforcement of an action program to stop illegal logging adopted at the 1998 G8 summit in Birmingham, England.

Enforcement was woefully inadequate and the G8 heads need to discuss stronger measures at this month’s G8 talks in Okinawa, activists said.

In Kobe, activists occupied a ship carrying containers of plywood processed from Amazon rain forest timber and exported by Eidai Inc., according to a statement.

The environmental group claimed Eidai is a prime example of a company that engages in illegal timber trading and cited record fines of nearly $2 million by the Brazilian government against the company’s local subsidiary.

The group also urged the Japanese government to confiscate the timber until it can be confirmed that it was not logged illegally.

In Tokyo, activists attacked the languid followup of the G8 commitment in 1998 to launch action against illegal logging.