The European Commission today revealed the price of sending its officials to the Rio+20 Earth Summit. It cost €590,000 (£475,000) to send five Commissioners, including Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and their entourage of over 60 to Rio.

The meeting, which ends today in the Brazilian city which hosted the first Earth Summit 20 years ago, has thus far made little progress, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg describing the outcome as “insipid”.

The high financial costs of sending such a large delegation to Rio was revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question submitted by London Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis. Mrs. Yannakoudakis, who is a member of the European Parliament’s environment committee, condemned the excessive costs of sending such a large delegation.

Mrs. Yannakoudakis said: “The Rio+20 Summit may address important issues, but EU needs to be mindful of the costs of sending so many officials halfway across the world. At a time of austerity, we must ask ourselves was it really necessary to send five European Commissioners and their entourages to Rio. Saving the planet shouldn’t cost the earth.”

The European Parliament cancelled its participation in the conference last month. At that time German Social Democrat MEP and chairman of the environment committee said: “The huge increase in the estimated cost of attending the summit is simply not justifiable, especially at a time when many Europeans are faced with economic hardship.”

The estimated carbon emissions of flying business class return Brussels-Rio de Janeiro is almost 5 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.

The UK is only sending two ministers to the summit (Deputy PM Nick Clegg and DEFRA Minister Caroline Spelman) with the delegation of UK officials much smaller than that of the Commission. The EU Commissioners taking part in the summit are: President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard and Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş.

The European Commission’s figures do not include staff sent to Rio by the European External Action Service nor Danish officials attending the summit as representatives of the rotating EU Presidency.

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