In language suited to the ears of Canadians, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore quoted the wisdom of a hockey legend on Thursday at a summit in Bali,apparently criticizingCanada's stance on climate changeduring UNtalkson the issue.

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore addresses the UN climate change conference Thursday in Bali, Indonesia. ((Dita Alangkara/Associated Press))

Although he never named Canada directly, Gore's hockey-referencing address to the 190-nation summit hinted that he was pointing a finger at Canada for blocking a climate-change frameworkthat includeshard targets. That document would set binding targets of a 25 to 40 per cent reduction for industrialized nations by 2020.

Aside from Canada, the U.S., Japan, New Zealand and Russia also opposesuch language for the emissions limits.

Gore, who shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, blasted the U.S. as "principally responsible" for the stalemate at the talks over emission controls. He also heaped scorn on the idea that the world can only have an effective climate treaty if the U.S. signs on — the exact position articulated by Canada.

Gore then invoked the names of former NHL greats Bobby Hull and Wayne Gretzky in paraphrasing hockey lore about the Great One's passing skills.

"He was the best passer in the history of the game, Bobby Hull. Others might disagree [and say] Wayne Gretzky," said Gore, perhaps confusing the Golden Jet's much-feared slapshot for the Great One's passing prowess.

'Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that.' —Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore

"And he said in response to the question: 'I don't pass the puck to where they are — I pass the puck to where they're going to be.'

"Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that."

EU nations threaten to boycott U.S. talks

That remark earned Gore an ovation from the audienceat the climate conference. He got an even louder one when he reminded delegates that President George W. Bush has only one year and 40 days left in the White House.

Gore's comments came the same day Canadian Environment Minister John Baird took the podium at the UN climate summit, and as European Union nations threatened to boycott a U.S.-sponsored meeting next month unless Washington accepts their figures for negotiating deep reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

The dispute is over emissions cuts that would be part of a new pact on global warming that would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

U.S. negotiators won't accept language that commits industrialized nations to specific reductions by 2020. The EU wants targets of a 25 to 40 per cent reduction to be specifically outlined in the document.

Baird has said Canada won't accept a climate deal unless it includes major polluters like the U.S., China and India.

Earlier in the day, Baird told the conference his government accepts the scientific evidence that supports the global warming phenomenon, and he acknowledged Canada is feeling the impact of climate change.

Can't use 'cookie-cutter approach': Baird

He reiterated the Conservatives' "realistic" plan to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions "an absolute" 20 per cent from current levels by 2020.

"National circumstances must be taken into account," he said. "Climate change cannot be fought through a cookie-cutter approach."

The Harper government doesn't use pollution levels of 1990, as do other countriesthat signed Kyoto, but instead bases the reductions plan on 2006 levels, which are much higher.

Many scientists have said this would actually translate into an increase of Canada's pollution levels of 1990.

Also in Bali, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion urged the Conservatives to heed Gore's message and accused Baird of misleading the conference.

"I think he has not been candid with the assembly and he has two days now to put his gestures in conformity with his speech," Dion said.

With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press