The government department spearheading the fight against climate change is planning an emergency package of at least £300m of cuts covering key environmental services, the Guardian has learned.

Frontline agencies tackling recycling, nature protection, energy saving, carbon emissions and safeguarding the environment are all being targeted in the package which is being drawn up by Helen Ghosh, the top civil servant at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Details of the cuts have emerged just as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due to publish its latest report.

The study, to be made public today ahead of a UN climate meeting in Bali, will warn that all forms of carbon pollution from flights to inefficient light bulbs must become more expensive if the world is to avert catastrophic effects of warming. The disclosure of the Defra cuts plan will embarrass Gordon Brown, who is expected next week to give a major speech on climate change, recommitting Britain to supplying a fifth of its energy requirements from renewables by 2020.

Previously government officials had said Britain would struggle to meet the target and lobbied to be allowed to use different statistics. The measures at Defra have become necessary, in part, because the department has been overwhelmed by huge bills for a series of disasters, from the foot and mouth outbreak to blunders over the payments of billions of pounds of EU cash to farmers.

The ministry's management board was told this week that it had to find an additional £270m from its main budget on top of savings agreed only a month ago.


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