World governments have been breaking promises to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, a report says.
The Overseas Development Institute says G20 nations spent almost £56bn ($90bn) a year finding oil, gas and coal.
It comes despite evidence that two thirds of existing reserves must be left in the ground if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.
A government spokesman said the North Sea oil and gas industry “creates jobs and generates investment” in the UK.
The spokesman said the tax regime for oil and gas includes a number of allowances which reduce the tax burden on specific, challenging gas or oil fields.
Allowances did not constitute a subsidy, he added.
The UK government has previously said it was helping firms find fossil fuels within the UK to increase energy security, attract royalties and help with the balance of payments.
However, the report said subsidies were irrational, a waste of public money and harmful to the environment.
With rising costs for hard-to-reach fossil fuel reserves – together with falling coal and oil prices – renewable energy was a better way to invest taxpayers’ funds, it added.
The report’s authors said the UK had introduced national subsidies for exploration valued at up to £757 million a year.
Those included tax breaks for North Sea exploration worth £528 million to Total (HQ France), £256 million to Statoil (Norway), £144 million to Centrica (UK) and £45 million to Chevron (USA) between 2009 and 2014.
The report also traced G20 governments’ funding of fossil fuel exploration overseas.
The UK has been spending £418 million annually in public finance for exploration in Siberia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana, it said. The funding was through export finance guarantees.
The USA has been spending £883 million annually in public finance for overseas exploration in Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia, the report added.
Read more: BBC