The Week That Was

04/12/2011 00:26 GMT | Updated 02/02/2012 10:12 GMT

When I was 13, I had a book called Saving the Planet, which was published - on recycled paper, naturally - by Friends of the Earth.

I followed it pretty much to the letter, forcing the entire family to give up baths in favour of showers, create a compost heap in the garden for leftover food, and all manner of other small steps in the name of being greener.

Mum and I were discussing the shower issue last Sunday. She and Dad have finally had a power shower installed at home, making them quite possibly the very last household in Britain to do so. (Taking a buy-one-get-one-not-at-all-free mentality, they've also splashed out on central heating, after 16 years relying on an oversized wood-burner to heat their entire remote Cotswold cottage.)

She had read that power showers use just as much water as baths anyway, so is now limiting hers to as few minutes as possible and switching the water off in-between lathering. Speaking as someone who'd just managed to while away about 20 minutes under my so-powerful-it-turns-by-shoulders-pink shower, it appeared Saving the Planet had a longer-lasting impact on her than me.

Which got me thinking about those small steps we were all so happy to take 15-odd years ago, that have become easier and easier now every car comes taking unleaded petrol as standard, and our recycling is collected for us right from our front doorsteps. And how now surely it's time for the big steps.

Lest we forget, climate change affects everyone. Even gazillionaires like Sir Philip Green aren't immune to its repercussions (he last week blamed falling sales and profits on the hotter-than-average October and November.)

As someone who moans about being cold on a pretty much daily basis - wandering around the office clutching mugs of hot water in an attempt to stay warm, switching off the air conditioning systematically in every meeting room I enter - commenting on the fact it's been an unseasonably warm autumn does not come naturally. I will, however, concede that daffodils flowering in Cornwall and snowless ski slopes in Europe do not bode well.

That an internationally supported successor to the Kyoto Agreement is agreed is imperative; that countries actually stick to its guidelines and their own promises even more so. Neither of which seems likely given the stalemate clouding the UN's climate change conference in Durban right now.

Michael Jacobs, a former advisor to Gordon Brown, believes there might yet be hope from Durban. If he's right, it can't come too soon. The International Energy Agency warned last month that the world has only about five years before we reach a tipping point on global warming from which it will be impossible to return.

Whether we like it or not, alternative energy sources must be invested in. The 'green' issue cannot be ignored just because the world's economy is in freefall and we're all distracted by whether there will be any money left to pay our pensions or not.

Now is the time to put pressure on our MPs and government to tackle these issues and, while we look to them to take the big steps, we must remember our responsibility to all the little steps - even those that require more effort than sorting the plastic bottles and newspapers into different coloured bins.

My first step? Having failed to track down my old Saving the Planet book, I've signed up for Friends of the Earth's tip of the day email, which requiring about three clicks and not a scrap of paper, seems like a pretty good place to start. And if I'm very quick, I reckon I can get tomorrow's shower down to eight minutes.