Nearly £1.5 billion has been spent tackling man-made climate change by Government department responsible for fighting poverty abroad, it can be revealed
The Department for International Development (Dfid) has spent the total on projects which they say will either reduce carbon emissions abroad or attempt to deal with the effects of predicted changes in the earth's climate.
In the past four years Dfid has spent £900 million on climate change projects with nearly two thirds of that being spent in the past financial year under the Coalition. A further £533 million has already been committed up to 2013.
The biggest recipients of the climate change aid are India and Indonesia, two countries considered to be rapidly emerging economies.
The disclosures – made under the Freedom of Information Act – will raise fresh questions over how foreign aid is spent, and comes after an Indian minister described British aid to the country as "peanuts", which ministers in London had begged Delhi to continue accepting.
Dfid is one of only two departments not affected by the Government's austerity drive, with a budget last year of £8.4 billion.
The figures released by the government reveal that total spending on tackling climate change overseas has increased from £61 million in 2007-08 to more than £883 million in 2010-11.
During that time, Dfid saw the biggest increase in spending on climate change with funding available for projects now 45 times higher than four years ago. The department now also employs 66 specialist climate and environmental advisers.
Among the aid provided by Dfid was a £4.7 million project in Indonesia aimed at helping the government there provide "more effective leadership and management of climate change programming".
Another project aimed at encouraging Indian farmers to use manual foot pumps to draw water from underground for their fields rather than using diesel powered pumps – a technology that could be considered a step backwards in terms of the labour required.
In Africa, six businessmen were given financial support to help them produce and sell solar powered lights.
A project in western Kenya to help indigenous Nganyi rainmakers, who were being undermined by extreme weather conditions caused by changes in the climate, was launched in 2008 as part of a £25 million climate change adaptation programme funded by Dfid.
The project aimed to bring the rainmakers together with Government meteorologists to produce a "consensus forecast" before relaying it back to village farmers, who were said to be losing trust in traditional methods which could not cope with the apparent changes in climate.
It allowed forecasts to be made using a combination of satellite data and computer models and traditional techniques such as observing insects, flowers and pot blowing, where herbs are placed into a pot buried in the ground which the rainmaker blows into through a pipe, listening for coming winds.
In total £3.5 billion of public money has been paid out or allocated to projects addressing climate change abroad since 2007-08.
Although Dfid accounts for the bulk of the spending, other departments have also spent significant amounts abroad.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also spent more than £71 million on tackling climate change and energy programmes overseas in the past two years.
This included a "Low Carbon High Growth Strategic Fund" operating in developed and developing countries including Poland, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Indonesia and Mexico to promote low carbon technologies and "creating the political conditions to avoid dangerous climate change".
The Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs has spent more than £233,000 attending climate change negotiations and has also allocated £10 million for a project to tackle deforestation in the Brazilian Cerrado.
As revealed by The Sunday Telegraph last year, the Department for Energy and Climate Change also spent £537 million on "developing an international agreement on climate change" and promoting low carbon technologies in developing countries since 2007/08.
The department also plans to spend a further £1 billion between 2012 and 2015.
Conservative MPs said the expenditure had be closely examined.
Philip Davies, a Conservative MP who has been an outspoken critic of attempts by the Coalition to increase foreign aid spending at a time when there are deep financial cuts happening in Britain, said: "Much of this will be about alleviating problems in many, many years to come.
"A lot of people consider international aid to be about addressing more pressing needs around the world that are more deserving of immediate investment.
"It has to be asked if spend fortunes on trying to tackle something which may or may not be a problem in a 100 years time or more is the best use of the international development budget."
Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Clacton, said: "It is not a priority for us to be spending these large amounts of public money on climate change when there is hardship at home.
"We are having to borrow billions of pounds every month to keep Government spending where it is and we are having to make cut backs to public services in the UK.
"People who live in developing countries have an absolute right to get wealthier but there are some serious questions about the extent to which the changes in the climate that are going on now are man-made.
"This seems like permanent public officials are inflating their budgets to justify their existence."
Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is sceptical about man-made global warming, also questioned the effectiveness of the money going abroad to tackle climate change.
He said: "A lot of money is wasted on schemes that don't actually help country's develop more resilience that would be good regardless of climate change.
"These handouts often come with conditions that appear to be pressure foreign governments into sighing up to global emissions policies."
Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said it was in Britain's best interests to help other countries tackle climate change because it is a global problem.
He said: "The Coalition Government is committed to being the greenest government ever.
"Climate change will hit the poorest hardest and leave many more people susceptible to flooding, failing crops and food shortages. We can only help these people if all countries – rich and poor – work together.
"This is why Britain works with emerging economies whose carbon emissions are predicted to grow fastest – to pool our knowledge and tackle global problems like deforestation and carbon emissions."