When it comes to carbon footprints, I’m a LoseACC

Recycling and low-energy light bulbs won't suffice in the battle against my elephantine footprint

Oh help. I've just calculated my carbon footprint. I realise I'm probably about five years behind everyone else on this, but I thought it was time. I also thought, smugly, that I'd be OK.

I live in a tiny flat, I don't have a car, I don't indulge in fossil-fuel extraction as a hobby. No such luck. My annual footprint was 16.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide - over the national average (15.4) and beating the national average in Bangladesh into submission (1). Only the US made me feel better, with an average of 28.

By 2050, the UK national average has to sink to 3.1. I'm in a blind panic. What can I do? Stop eating meat? Never fly again? But if I pretend I've
done both of these things to the carbon calculator, it only pushes my footprint down to 9.9 - still triple the target. I see myself in 2050, ploughing through late middle age, living in an icy cell, surviving on wild berries and stale water, endlessly repenting my past extravagances. (In fact, by 2050, we'll probably all be clinging on to inflatable rafts on top of Parliament Hill as water seeps through the city below us, brimming with the corpses of the world's last remaining fish - so I really shouldn't worry so much about the berries.)

But back to reality. It's clearly time to stop hoping that recycling and low-energy light bulbs are going to suffice in my battle against my own elephantine footprint. I must do more! The Act on CO2 website (the government's online instruction manual) tells me to watch my waste and has helpful suggestions on how I can get the best out of my appliances. Actually, the appliances really take on a life of their own here. The Act on CO2 lot tell me how to "prolong the life" of my electronic equipment and then recommend not leaving stuff on standby so that it doesn't "have unnecessary work to do". And if you want to get rid of the dastardly thing altogether, "try and find a new home for it", rather than abandoning it on the side of the road. Poor appliances: overworked, overheated, underpaid. And one of the central causes of our planet's eternal doom. Not since
Dixons went exclusively online have electrical appliances felt so utterly unloved.

And so to Winchester (not entirely logical, but bear with me) or, as Act on CO2 lovingly calls it, WinACC (Winchester Action on Climate Change). How it trips off the tongue. Winchester is fast becoming the urban equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio - an environmental poster-boy. Its residents are Low-Carbon Champions and hold film screenings and pub nights. It's like an exercise in how to make cutting carbon emissions fun. I don't know if they are actually having any fun in Winchester, but good on them for trying.

Why Winchester, though? What are all the other pretty mid-sized British towns doing? Why haven't we got YorkACC or EdinACC? Because if there's one thing we know in these troubling days, as the world prepares to save itself at a climate change summit in Copenhagen (COP15), there can never be enough incomprehensible acronyms in this life.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 02 November 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Mob rule