Senior ministers are following Scott Morrison's lead in firming up their language around climate change targets.
The prime minister has expressed a preference to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier.
It is the first time he has nominated the timetable so explicitly, but there is still no firm commitment to reach the climate target.
Most major economies including the United States have committed to the 2050 deadline.
"The question is not when, it's how," Mr Morrison told parliament on Tuesday.
"We will do it through technological transformation, we will do it based on the science that produces that technology and gets us to that important goal."
Mr Morrison is using Labor's policy hole on the issue to claim they have a climate tax.
Chris Bowen has recently taken on the climate and energy portfolio from Labor colleague Mark Butler.
While the opposition is yet to announce a short-term emissions reduction plan or broader policy, Mr Bowen has indicated it would involve "revitalising industry".
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese accused the prime minister of playing catch up on the 2050 goal.
"In some of the papers today, I got up and I read 'net zero emissions by 2050', and I thought to myself: 'There is an idea, why didn't the whole world think about that?' Well, it appears they have actually," he said.
"Scott Morrison needs to explain how it is that his rhetoric when Labor adopted net zero by 2050, he said it would have catastrophic economic consequences."
Simon Birmingham, the leader of the government in the Senate, defended the coalition's approach.
"The prime minister has made clear the goal of the government is absolutely to see net zero achieved by 2050 or earlier if possible," he told the ABC.
"What the prime minister is also making clear is that we, and the world, need to focus on how we are actually going to achieve it. Goals and ambitions are one thing, getting them done is a different thing."
Senator Birmingham downplayed the power and influence of coalition colleagues, including Barnaby Joyce and Craig Kelly, who don't agree with the 2050 deadline and are pushing for more investment in coal.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan downplayed the significance of the prime minister's comments.
The Queenslander is leading a backbench charge within the Nationals to advance coal-fired power stations to underpin a manufacturing resurgence.
"If we go down single-mindedly on just trying to shut things down in a futile effort to cool the planet we're going to make that other problem a lot worse," Senator Canavan told Sky News.
"When I think about what the biggest challenge for my kids is going to be in their generation, I think it's the rising aggression of the Chinese Communist Party in our region, not carbon neutrality by 2050," he said.
Australian Associated Press