Speaking ahead of a visit to Australia next week for G20 meetings, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde called on Australia not to abandon its position as a 'pioneer' in the debate around climate change.
"Australia was very much at the forefront, Australia was pioneering in this field and I would hope that it continues to be a pioneer," Ms Lagarde told Fairfax media.
"I do think that climate change issues and progress in that regard are critical and are not just fantasies, they are real issues."
But Environment Minister Greg Hunt defended the government's record, stating that it takes the issue 'very seriously' and is on track to reach its targets of a 5 per cent emissions reduction by 2020.
"We will hit our targets and we will hit them easily. And that is what matters to the world. My commitment, our commitment to achieving our targets is real and absolute," he said, while continuing to push for the repeal of the carbon tax.
"The carbon tax is not just a massive hit to families, farms and factories. It doesn't do it's job. In the first 12 months a $7.6 billion tax produced a 0.1 percent change in Australia's emissions. In other words, pain without gain."
Opposition deputy leader Tanya Plibersek urged Tony Abbott to heed to the advice of IMF Chief Christine Lagarde.
Ms Plibersek says she remains concerned the Liberal party is out of step, even with other conservative forces.
"Christine Lagarde is a conservative politician, and the IMF is a conservative organisation. Tony Abbott would do very well to listen to Christine Lagarde's suggestions that tackling climate change would be very good for the economy as well as good for the environment."