Delegates at the UN climate summit in Durban approved a roadmap towards an agreement which will for the first time bring all major greenhouse gas emitters under a single legal accord, after almost 14 days of talks.
Australia is among the world's worst per capita polluters, with a heavy reliance on coal mining and exports and most of its electricity comes from coal-fired power stations.
Australian Climate Change Minister Greg Combet hailed Sunday's consensus as a "significant breakthrough in tackling global warming.
"The historic Durban agreement opens the way to bring all of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters - including the United States and important developing economies like China, India and Brazil - into a new international legal framework for reducing carbon pollution," said Combet.
"(It sets) the world on a path of long-term action to tackle climate change through a regime with wide global coverage and strong environmental effectiveness," he added.
If approved as scheduled in 2015, the pact will be operational from 2020 and become the prime weapon in the fight against climate change.
Combet said the agreement would allow the world to "move on from the Kyoto Protocol's unsustainable divide between developed and developing countries and ensuring all nations do their fair share."
"The US, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and China have agreed to be part of the new legal architecture," he said.
"These two countries account for 37% of global emissions, so their decision to join a new international legal framework is a breakthrough. They are also Australia's major trading partners."
Canberra passed a controversial tax on carbon pollution last month which will give way to an emissions trading scheme in 2015 and Combet said the developments at Durban were a welcome boost to the plan.