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The Government is being warned it may need to introduce "carbon-rationing" to cut pollution from everyday activities, such as filling up the car with petrol.
A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has said that personal quotas for emissions may be needed if current policies fail to cut greenhouse gases.
These proposed "credits" would be used to buy gas and electricity for powering homes, fuel for cars and plane tickets for holidays.
People who did not use up their allocation could sell the excess to people who used more fossil fuels for their vehicles or vacations.
The quotas would shrink over time in order to reduce carbon emissions.
The IPPR admits the scheme could cost around £1.4 billion a year, would be difficult to implement and likely to be unpopular.
However, the think-tank's report says if at the end of the UK's first carbon budget in 2012, emissions were not being reduced, the Government may have to consider rationing as a "plan B".
The five-year carbon budgets were brought in as part of attempts to meet legally-binding targets to cut emissions by at least 24 per cent by 2020, and at least 80 per cent by 2050 across the UK economy as a whole.