More than 120 nations supported the resolution raised by the UN’s disarmament and international security committee, defeating the likes of the UK Russia, Israel and France who voted against it.
The resolution will now go before the UN General Assembly. The UK government said it was committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, but supported gradual multilateral disarmament within “existing international frameworks”.
A total of 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution while 38 opposed it and 16 abstained in the vote.
The resolution aims to set up a conference in March to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa were among countries to support the resolution, but the Foreign Office said it did not support the proposed talks.
A spokesman said: “The UK is committed to a world without nuclear weapons, in line with our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“The UK voted against the resolution at the UN General Assembly first committee as we do not believe that the negotiations it mandates will lead to progress on global nuclear disarmament.
“We firmly believe that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach and within existing international frameworks.”
This year the House of Commons voted for the multi-billion pound Trident replacement. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said the negotiations could follow in a similar vein to the banning of biological and chemical weapons, land mines and cluster bombs and urged the government to reconsider.
Kate Hudson of the CND said: “[It’s] very disappointing to see the British government attempt to thwart these vital negotiations.
“We urge the British government to rethink its approach, to support and participate in the UN conference in 2017 that will explore steps towards a global nuclear ban.”
SNP MSP Bill Kidd, co-president of PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament) said: “While the Tories are determined to build new nuclear weapons regardless of the cost to the public purse, the SNP is clear in our opposition – and we’re joined by the clear majority of countries.”