Referring to 2011 as "a year of decision" and a "year of delivery" Gillard told a Council for the Economic Development of Australia meeting Monday that the government must decide on a way of pricing carbon that is supported by a broad enough consensus that it can be legislated.
"Climate change was first discussed in our Parliament in the 1980s. It's been central to public debate in two successive federal election campaigns, but a working consensus for action has eluded us," she said.
Putting a price on carbon was a key issue that led to the demise of Gillard's predecessor, Kevin Rudd, who was bounced by the Labor party in June after shelving his emissions trading scheme until 2013 or later.
In August, Gillard announced the formation of an independent climate change commission charged with identifying the best way to price carbon. She emphasized Monday that the commission would carry out its task of bringing together expert opinion and public attitudes on pricing carbon.
"I promise you, no responsible decision maker will be able to say next year that they need more time or more information on climate change," Gillard said. "In 2011 there will be nowhere to hide."
Data from the Energy Information Agency show that Australia, the world's biggest exporter of coal, has the highest per capita of carbon emissions.
Gillard told the Council that Australia would maintain its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, but would be open to the possibility of lifting the target to 25 percent depending on international action.
Gillard's remarks came as the Australian delegation, led by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, was set to arrive in Cancun, Mexico, for the latest round of United Nations climate talks that continues through December 10.
"The world needs to take strong and credible action to move to a low-pollution future and limit global temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius," Combet said Sunday, The Australian newspaper reports.
"Australia seeks a legally binding outcome that includes as many countries as possible. To achieve lasting emissions reductions, all major emitters must be part of the global solution," he said.
A study released last month by the Sydney-based Climate Institute found that Australia lags far behind its main global competitors in setting a carbon price.