A report from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) says that the Government needs to do more than promote electric cars and greener transport if it wants to see a fall in emissions.
Britain is lagging behind other countries in the use of cleaner transport, the report based on 500 international studies says.
It stresses that although improvements to bus, cycling and walking infrastructure offer short-term solutions, the biggest long-term impact would come through altering travel patterns so that people rely less on the car for journeys.
Dr Jillian Anable, head of transport research at UKERC, said that the Government's recent announcements on low-carbon vehicles are "welcomed", but it needs to do much more than support electric cars.
"Without managing travel patterns themselves, it is very difficult to meet the technological challenges, including how the electricity is generated, at the scale and pace required," she said. "Without effective policies to manage demand for travel, emission cuts through vehicle technology will be made much more difficult and may come too late."
The report's lead author, Dr Robert Gross, added: "Subsidies for low-carbon cars are likely to be effective, because the evidence is that people tend to discount long run costs."
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