The siren has rung for halftime, and our team is losing. Our opponents are more united than expected.

It’s hard to see how Team Australia will even try to catch up in the second half.

COP26 has been a conference of wins and losses. Australia came into this event ranked at the bottom of the climate action ladder out of nearly 200 countries.

On the global playing field, our strongest allies may soon become rivals, as Australia continues to distance itself from the rest of the pack.

The United States has led a coalition of 190 countries and organisations to consign coal to history.

Australia, on the other hand, is opening more than 100 new fossil fuel projects off the back of this conference.

The United Kingdom has pledged to slash emissions by 68 per cent this decade - that’s more than half of Australia’s formal target.

Even if Australia was to slash its pollution by one-third by 2030, the science tells us it is nowhere near enough.

So how is Australia being viewed here in Glasgow?

Let’s start with the Australian pavilion, which this week has been abuzz with presentations from Energy Minister Angus Taylor and four carefully selected businesses.

The most prominent display has been by Santos – an oil and gas company whose unproven technology has been on show for the world to see.

The Santos carbon capture and storage model was so large it had to be wheeled away out of sight, where it should remain.

The Santos carbon capture and storage model was so large it had to be wheeled away out of sight, where it should remain.

Next door to the so-called Australian pavilion is the zero methane section.

The irony is not lost on the many hundreds of people who walk past each morning.

Australia’s pavilion sticks out like a sore thumb, although I will be first to admit - it’s got the best coffee in the entire centre.

But once you’ve had that first sip of caffeine, it becomes ever so clear that our federal government has come to Glasgow linking arms with a fossil-fuel company.

It is spruiking a technology aimed at extending the life of gas, while our pavilion neighbours are offering solutions to curb the dirty fossil fuel.

Scratch off the pavilion’s white paint - along with the ‘Australian Way’ logo – and there are deeper and darker problems.

“When I saw the Australian government’s pavilion, I went into a very deep silent painful scream,” said Pastor Ray Minniecon, who is in Glasgow to represent the Indigenous Peoples Organisation.

“There were no images of any kind that represented our people. Nothing! It was like I walked into contemporary Australia’s version of terra nullius and the White Australia Policy. Our people are not represented or included in any form. No art or anything that resembles our place in our own country!”

To add to Pastor Minniecon’s fury and frustration, there’s been no attempt by the Australian government to meet with environmental organisations in Glasgow.

I am told by COP long-timers that this is highly unusual behaviour, and in the past the likes of former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop would sit down with civil society for a robust discussion.

So, what kind of team is Australia now?

It is one that is exclusive, mostly for white men in blue suits. It champions profit over people.

This team certainly isn’t playing for the majority of Australians, who want to see strong climate action taken this decade.

If team Australia wants to win before the final siren, it needs to start listening to the people in the grandstand. Those voices matter most.

Freya Cole is media and investigations manager for the Australian Conservation Foundation and a former journalist for Channel 7 and BBC World.

This piece was published by the Canberra Times.

Susan Cole

Media and Investigations Manager, Australian Conservation Foundation