All last week we watched in horror as a divided Government groped towards net zero in 2050 for COP26, which starts this week. The PM will be under huge pressure to address this decade’s issue, a target for 2030, as opposed to last decade’s idea of 2050.

Australia can’t afford any more embarrassment, but I fear our PM will go there by falling back on his hoary old favourite saying of: ‘technology not taxes’. So, I have prepared a briefing minute and speech notes for our Prime Minister, to flesh out some details of the motto (with contrary notes by William T. Boyles in brackets).


Firstly, we need to reverse the count in the motto: it should read: ‘technologies (plural) not tax (singular)”. There are many more of the former than the latter. We are on target to reach a 26-28% reduction by 2030 (you could say exceed it, although it’s not true) by a range of technologies (almost all by the Sates and private industry) and not by tax (because the Labor government’s hugely successful carbon pricing, that made such an impact, wasn’t actually a tax).

Here’s a list of some of the technologies, followed by a tax.


Photo-voltaic (PV) panels. We developed this technology through Martin Green’s brilliant team at UNSW. We could start up our own manufacturing business. (Except a UNSW graduate has already established the world’s largest manufacturer in China).

Rooftop Solar. Australia leads the world with 25% of dwellings having PVs. We can easily lift that to 50% (only because most of our dwellings are suburban McMansions, unsustainable in any other way).

Solar Farms. These ones use huge areas of PV panels hooked up to the grid to replace fossil fuels. And we can graze animals underneath it to keep the weeds down. Preferably goats (‘greatest of all time’ – just like Australia). But China is freezing us out of PVs (heaven or Jenny knows why).

Concentrated Solar Thermal. This uses of an array of mirrors beaming the sun to a central tower, at temperatures of 10,000oC+ to melt chemicals, to store heat, which is used in a turbine to generate electricity. And the heat can be stored for days. That gives the lie to idiots who say solar doesn’t work at night (ah PM, that was National’s MP Keith Pitt, he’s on your side).

Wind turbines. The main job of those white rotating blades is to save farmers from bankruptcy with a constant income in drought. Oh, and they replace fossil fuels. (Note PM, they are wind turbines, not wind generators - that’s the National Party).

Biomass, Waste to energy and Landfill methane. All new technologies that Aussies can get behind, because we have huge amounts of crops we can’t sell, and too much waste that goes to landfill (where it makes lots of methane that is 24 times worse than CO2). We can use it to drive steam turbine electric generators (once we run out of coal).

Tidal Wave Generators and Instream Hydro. We’re not a dry continent, we’re wet on all sides, blessed with huge tidal ranges up north, and massive waves down south that can both drive generators. Not to mention micro hydro in our rivers (if only we hadn’t starved our universities and their engineering departments who create such things).

Energy storage

Batteries. We were one of the first in the world to put a harmonising battery into a grid to prevent failure from a downturn in electricity generation. Australia is at the forefront of energy storage (we are leaders at the front of the queue to buy overseas technology).

Hydro Storage. My predecessor announced Snowy Hydro Two, a huge wet battery. Great for storing and releasing energy. Now I get to announce it again (and again - since it was first announced, nothing has happened, over the same length of time that half the original Snowy Scheme was built).

Big grids. Australia is so broad it spans up to four times zones; thus, in Summer the sun is shining in some part of Australia for almost 18 of 24 hours. So, if Australia was fully grid connected, it could even out the demand and supply. But WA want to go it alone, keeping their sunshine for themselves (just like Gina likes to keep her wealth to herself).

Micro grids. Small communities in the country can pool their solar and wind to establish a local ‘micro grid’, that acts like a mini electricity supplier, evening out the demand (don’t they know they are threatening their country cousins coal mining jobs?).

Green hydrogen. The wonder fuel to replace petrol, diesel, and coal. When created from water by electrolysis from solar and wind energy it is a perfect fuel to replace those fossil fuels. It can be used in transport or heavy industry, to make aluminium or steel. Which is why, irony of iron, class traitor Andrew Twiggy Forrest is a green hydrogen proselytiser.


Electric vehicles. In Australia the uptake of electric vehicles is accelerating (off a very low base). We are poised for the electric vehicle revolution now that Joe Hockey got rid of those ‘leaner’ ICE engine car makers. (Warning PM, do not use Michaelia Cash’s briefing notes from the last election).

Electric Utes. Australia loves a good Ute or SUV, and now that there are 20 different models from overseas and the innovation is done, we’re thinking hard about making them (in the same way we are thinking hard about making mRNA vaccines now that we see the potential other countries saw over a year ago). (This government is the world champion at announcements without follow-through).

Electric bikes. COVID restrictions massively increased the need for home deliveries; Australia responded to lead the world in using electric bikes (we also lead the world in electric bike deaths, but they’re mostly foreign backpackers, which we lead the world in exploiting).

High Low speed rail. Australians are champions at the slow train, the sustainable alternative to high-speed rail. We have a proposal for an inland railway, and we are so forward thinking that our Nationalistas have a proposal to extend it to carry coal, when we haven't even built the first part yet. You can’t buy that Aussie ingenuity unless you are Clive Palmer of course.

Rideshare. Australia has taken big to Uber, a wonderful way to harness IT (and exploited non-unionised labour) to lower transport costs. We are at the forefront of protecting consumer rights (but not workers – heaven, and the LNP playbook, forbid).

Farming and Food

Farming. There are lots of ways to reduce CO2 emissions on farms: farmland restoration, silviopasture, multistrata agroforestry, regenerative agriculture, tree intercropping and perennial biomass. (We asked the Nationals, the farmers’ friend, what it all but means, but Littleproud MP, the deputy’s deputy, could only talk about mining coal and gas.)

Forest Protection and Coastal Wetlands. Australia has a huge future in both areas. Given the vast areas of forests that we cut down and the coastal areas that we destroyed, we have lots of opportunities for reforestation and restoration. And it all gets easy carbon points (20% of our 2030 reduction of 26-28% occurred when Queensland Labor halted tree clearing). Imagine what we could get for planting trees and mangroves we should never have removed.

Industrial hemp and making coral. Hemp is the wonder plant – it can make construction materials, clothing, and medicines, and luckily an Australian is one of the leading owners of hemp farms (unfortunately they're all in the USA, because we can’t see the difference between hemp and marijuana). And two Australian researchers have developed a way to capture CO2 in sewer waste and fix it into oxides that can be used in building materials, from their studies of how coral is made. Just don't mention the Great Barrier Reef.

Permaculture. Australia is the home of Permaculture, and we are just so proud, as we were with P. A. Yeomans Keyline invention (but we are never going to allow this ‘technology’ to interfere in our agribusiness that leads the world in rapaciousness –we can re-direct the entire Darling-Murray, and its water wealth, into our bank accounts).

Indigenous practices. We are so proud that the country of Australia has been managed by our indigenous people longer than any other place in the world. They have much to teach us about soils, plants, medicines, burning country and culture (and best of all, they love it so much we don’t have to pay them).

Food. Australians love food. Australia will lead the way in increasing food waste to run our biomass generators: composting all the uneaten food (and it is abundant) to generate methane to drive electrical generation, and so reduce our CO2 footprint. We will also lead the way in making a plant rich diet for all by making plants look and taste (and profit) the same as beef, chicken, and fish.

Cities, Buildings and Materials

Building Efficiency. Australia has huge capacity for reducing CO2 in our building stock because we have the worst ‘climate-adapted’ housing and buildings in the world. So, we can make huge positive improvements. Just don't mention pink batts.

Insulation. Australia has a manufacturing plant making advanced phenolic resin insulation, one of only three in the world. The Kingspan plant in Somerton is something to be proud of and supported (something that seemed to escape to Josh Frydenberg when he opened the building - he had no idea that protecting innovation and excellence in products was a thing).

Heat Pumps. Australians love heat pumps, in air conditioners or refrigerators. The latter were invented in the 1850s by an Australian, James Harrison. We are keen to exploit that history and to electrify the nation by swapping heat pumps in for gas at every opportunity (but don’t tell the gas lobby).

Green roofs and LEDs. Australia has abundant sunshine so many of the roofs of our city buildings could be converted to growing plants. And LED lighting has a huge potential to replace incandescent and fluorescent lights. My government will propose a policy to support both (and once again do nothing about it).

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and bamboo. Australia has ideal conditions for growing the softwoods and bamboos that can make alternative construction products by and lower CO2 by embedding it in the product. We already have an excellent CLT factory (but without protection from government it is failing against the cheaper imports). 

Nuclear Power. We love nuclear power; we just bought some nuclear submarines on the never-never to get our population gradually used to the idea. Compared to the phenomenal cost of nuclear subs the nuclear power stations that the FNQ guys love will seem cheap. Good move.

Carbon Capture and Storage. Brilliant in theory. Unworkable in practice, but I am happy to announce that Australia is deeply committed to subsidising any CCS projects, as it helps our fossil fool mates and can defer any serious discussion of CO2 reduction.


Enough about technologies (so many of them). What about the other T – Tax. We love tax - as a political wedge. We won several elections by accusing our opposites of wanting to introduce a carbon tax. But it was an ETS – an Emissions Trading Scheme - to enable carbon trading, not a tax (thanks Peta Credlin). We got rid of it, but not before we used its success to reach our 2030 targets, (we love that tax, but it’s a forbidden love). Now that the rest of the world has carbon pricing, we too will have one, but in the Australian way (that is, wide open to rorting and greenwash).

In conclusion

COP 26ers, as you can see when it comes to technologies (and a tax wedge), Australia is indeed the lucky

Country. We are blessed with abundant possibilities, (but we're so lucky that we don't have to adopt any just yet - they can wait whilst we exploit our massive fossil fuel reserves). I could talk endlessly about the technologies of the future (but I am so lucky that I won't ever have to do anything about it).

Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected].

Note: this is the 100th, and last, Tone on Tuesday. What was a jokey name for two weeks has outlasted its welcome every week for two years. The column will return in the near future as Plus One, a slightly better idea every week.