BUILDING an affordable zero-emission car will be the most important source of reducing pollution from transport, Professor Ross Garnaut has found.
Governments must also stop funding new road construction ahead of new public transport infrastructure, he said.
Between 2004 and 2009, Canberra poured $12 billion into road building but spent nothing on urban public transport, the climate change report said.
Emissions from transport — the sector makes up 14% of all carbon dioxide emissions produced in Australia — could be reduced more quickly if governments shifted from funding roads and instead spent more on public transport, walking and cycling.
The report said that to reduce emissions from transport, Australians would need to:
■ Drive fuel-efficient vehicles and shift to low-emission fuels such as electricity.
■ Shift to lower-emission modes, such as public transport, and build cities that are more compact.
■ Reduce the distance and frequency of travel.
A single transport co-ordination body should also be set up in every state, to be responsible for transport policy, he recommended.
For many years state and federal governments had given public transport a low priority because of cheap petrol, Professor Garnaut said.
"Low fuel prices … are a key factor behind the extensive use of fuel-intensive modes of transport in Australia, including trucks and cars," he said. These modes accounted for more than 85% of Australia's transport emissions in 2006.
But the transport system in Australia would undergo "a profound transformation this century (because of) higher oil prices, new transport technologies, rising incomes and population growth," he said.
Population growth would increase the competitiveness of public transport and intercity rail, as their costs per passenger decreased with scale, he said.
But governments would have to do more to help people get on to public transport.
"The main reasons people do not currently use public transport relate to the lack of suitable quality infrastructure and services," he said, citing Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.
Melbourne University transport researcher Nicholas Low said Professor Garnaut's review had exposed state and federal governments' "unprincipled fetish for road building".
He said the collapse of the global economy meant public-private partnerships were now "dead in the water". Governments would need to move towards "community partnerships" instead, he said.