BORIS Johnson has insisted “Glasgow has sounded the death-knell for coal power” as he hit back at criticism over the flagship COP26 agreement being watered down.

As countries were set to approve the Glasgow Climate Pact on Saturday evening, India and China intervened – changing a commitment calling on nations to “accelerate efforts towards” a “phase out” of unabated coal to a pledge to “phase down" coal.

The pact also called for an end to “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies and “recognises” the need to support workers in fossil fuels industries from finding alternative employment – known as a just transition.

Burning fossil fuels is a huge contributor to rising global temperatures causing the climate crisis and the pact is the first COP headline document to highlight the need to move away from burning coal, oil and gas.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, the Prime Minister labelled the pact “the kind of game-changing agreement that the world needed to see”.

Mr Johnson, who was criticised by Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week for his whistle-stop visit to Glasgow on Wednesday before returning to London before talks concluded, stressed that the agreement marks “the beginning of the end of coal power”.

But he admitted that the pact was “tinged with disappointment” after the late intervention from India and China.

The Prime Minister’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, had earlier warned that China and India will have to “explain themselves to the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world” for watering down the coal commitment in the pact.

Speaking alongside Mr Johnson, the summit president said that a commitment to “phase down” coal means that “at future COPs, we can push further on that particular issue”, but admitted he “would have preferred stronger language".

The Prime Minister appeared to brush aside the concerns around the language change, including from his COP26 president, saying that he alteration doesn't "make that much difference", claiming "the direction of travel is still the same".

He said that warnings from leaders of global south nations “demanded a high level of ambition”, adding that “while many of us were willing to go there, that wasn’t true of everybody”.

Mr Johnson added: “Sadly, that’s the nature of diplomacy.

“We can lobby, we can cajole, we can encourage – but we cannot force sovereign nations to do what they do not wish to do.”

Mr Sharma said it was a “first” to have coal commitments written into a UN climate text but conceded that he had wanted the pledge to go further.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that China and India would have to “explain themselves” after representatives from countries most at risk of rising seas and changing weather patterns expressed “disappointment” on the floor of the summit at the move.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Sharma added: “Yes, of course I would have liked to ensure we maintain the ‘phase out’ rather than changing the wording to ‘phase down’, but on the way to phasing out, you’ve got to phase down.

“But, ultimately, of course, what we need to ensure is that we continue to work on this deal, on these commitments, and on the issue of coal, China and India are going to have to justify to some of the most climate vulnerable countries what happened.”

Asked whether his emotional reaction to the change in language on coal was an admission of failure, Mr Sharma told the BBC: “I wouldn’t describe what we did yesterday as a failure – it is a historic achievement.”

The COP26 president hailed agreements for countries to revisit and strengthen their 2030 national climate action targets by the end of 2022 and for annual “high level” ministerial meetings on tackling emissions to take place, as he urged for countries to be held “to account for the commitments that were made” in Glasgow.

The Prime Minister insisted that COP26 will start the process for limiting global temperatures below dangerous increases.

He said: “We came to COP with a call for real action on coal, cars , cash and trees and real action is exactly what we’ve got.

“At Glasgow, we’ve turned that dial down to around 2C increase.

“That’s still far too high but for all our disagreements, the world is undeniably heading in the right direction.”

But Labour’s shadow business and energy secretary Ed Miliband warned that “keeping 1.5 degrees alive is frankly in intensive care”, with a “chasm” between what was agreed in Scotland and what still needs to be done to slash emissions.

The former Labour leader said: “The task of the world is to halve global emissions over the coming decade, that’s by 2030, that’s what the scientists tell us is necessary to keep 1.5 degrees alive and the truth about Glasgow, despite some progress, is that the world is only probably about 20% or 25% of the way to that goal.”

Mr Miliband described the Prime Minster's press conference as "a classic Boris Johnson performance", accusing him of "overspinning and under-delivering".

He added: “This summit made modest progress but the Prime Minister over-selling what it achieved serves nobody.

“The truth is that we are miles off where we need to be to halve emissions this decade and deliver justice for developing countries.

“This summit was a missed opportunity for the transformation we needed and 1.5 degrees is in intensive care.”