Alok Sharma said China and India will have to “justify themselves” to climate-vulnerable countries after their intervention blunted the Cop26 deal.
He made the comments after shedding tears on the world stage last night as a pact was finally agreed at the climate change conference in Glasgow.
It has seen a dramatic last-minute intervention by China and India to halt the deal to end the use of coal power.
Sharma, chairman of the summit, was reduced to tears when he apologized to delegates for the way the change was made.
The agreement was to include a promise to accelerate the “phasing out” of coal energy but it was changed to “elimination”.
The word change reduces the urgency with which countries are required to reduce coal use – the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gases.
This morning, he told Sky News: “On the coal issue, China and India will of course have to justify to some of the most vulnerable countries what happened. You heard that disappointment on the floor.”
He said overall that it is a “historic deal” of which they would be “really proud”.
But overwhelmed by his feelings about those countries that were pushing for last-minute change, he replied: “At the end of the day, my job was to build consensus. That’s what I did.
“I made sure that before we actually got back on the podium, I checked with the negotiating groups, with some of the most climate-vulnerable countries, that they could accept the language. And, of course, they reluctantly did that because overall this is really a very good and historic deal.
“But as I said, at the end of the day, China and India will have to justify themselves in the face of these climate-vulnerable nations.”
A tearful Sharma told the delegates last night, “I apologize for the way this process has unfolded. I am very sorry.”
However, the Glasgow Climate Pact is the first climate agreement that explicitly plans to reduce coal.
The deal is also pushing for more urgent emission reductions and promises more money to help developing countries adapt to climate impacts.
The general agreement saw nearly 200 countries agree to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels “alive” or affordable.
Worker’s Ed Miliband said if Glasgow was intended to keep 1.5C alive, it was now in “intensive maintenance”.