Greenpeace activists shout slogans during a protest.
The UK has spent more than $938.7 million on securing an international agreement on climate change and promoting green technologies in developing countries since April 2006, according to Government spending reports.
The figures do not include spending by the Foreign Office, which has an entire department dedicated to climate change, nor the amount given in aid to foreign countries for climate change projects by the Department for International Development.
The revelations come as Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, leads a 45-strong delegation to Durban, South Africa, for the latest round of United Nations negotiations aimed at achieving an international deal on climate change, known as COP 17.
There are already fears that the summit will end without making progress on its key goals after a number of powerful developed countries including the United States, Russia and Japan have made threats that could derail the talks.
Analysis of spending figures released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change has revealed:
- The government has spent £145 million on “developing an international agreement on climate change” since 2006/07.
- A further £5.2 million is expected to be spent on the same goal in current financial year.
- DECC has ploughed a further £456 million into promoting low carbon technologies in developing countries since 2008.
- The UK also provided £500,000 in aid to South Africa – a relatively wealthy nation – to provide “logistical and technical support” ahead of the UN talks in Durban.
The Government claims the spending is essential so Britain can lead the way in helping the world to tackle global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Government spending figures released by DECC show that in 2008/09, prior to the UN’s climate change talks in Copenhagen, it spent almost £48 million on seeking an international climate change agreement.
The previous year it spent more than £49 million and the year before than almost £39 million.
DECC claims these high figures are due to some spending being mislabelled by officials within the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which led on climate change before DECC was created in 2008.
In 2009/10 this spending dropped to £4.2 million and last year was £5.3 million.
As part of these costs the UK pays around £1.3 million a year to the UN to contribute towards the running costs of the annual climate change talks.
Around £3.4 million a year is pays subscriptions to other international bodies including the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The spending figures also show that the amount of money given to developing countries by DECC to “promote low carbon technologies” has risen from £50 million in 2008/09 to £278 million in the last financial year.
Last year the government spent £355,701 sending 46 ministers and members of staff to the UN’s climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, while the previous year it spent more than £555,000 sending 76 people to the talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Both meetings failed to achieve firm international agreements on measures to tackle greenhouse gases.
A spokesman for DECC insisted that only a tiny proportion of £650 million was spent on sending staff to international climate negotiations.
But it has led to questions about the scale of taxpayers money being spent on getting other countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Nick Silver, a research fellow for the think tank Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “I am surprised by how much has been spent and it definitely requires more explanation about what the money has been spent on.”
Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is sceptical of man-made climate change, said: “Britain has taken the lead on trying to get other countries to take climate change seriously.
“Large sums of money appear to have been spent trying to get reluctant nations to sign up to its agenda, but it has ultimately led to nothing.”
Mr Huhne is due to arrive in Durban on Saturday in the hope of achieving an international deal on greenhouse gas emissions and the establishment of a Green Climate Fund.
The current agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, is due to expire in 2012, and there is concern that without new commitments, emissions will rise.
The US is expected to block moves to set up a Green Climate Fund, another of the key goals of the talks.
Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister who helped to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, accused the United States and Canada and other rich countries of trying to scupper a deal.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “It is a conspiracy against the poor. It is appalling. I am ashamed of such countries not recognising their responsibilities.”