Big coal users like Poland and Vietnam vow to phase it out, but China, India and the US have not.
More than 40 countries are committing to shift away from coal, in pledges made at the COP26 climate summit, the UK government says.
Major coal-using countries including Poland, Vietnam and Chile are among those to make the commitment.
But some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent countries, including Australia, India, China and the US, did not sign up to the pledge.
Coal is the single biggest contributor to climate change.
Signatories to the agreement have committed to ending all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally.
They have also agreed to phase out coal power in the 2030s for major economies, and the 2040s for poorer nations, the UK said.
Dozens of organisations also signed up to the pledge, with several major banks agreeing to stop financing the coal industry.
“The end of coal is in sight,” UK business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.
“The world is moving in the right direction, standing ready to seal coal’s fate and embrace the environmental and economic benefits of building a future that is powered by clean energy.”
But UK Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said there were “glaring gaps” from China and other large emitters, who have not committed to stop increasing coal use domestically. He also noted that there was nothing on the phasing out of oil and gas.
Mr Miliband said the UK government “has let others off the hook”.
Although progress has been made in reducing coal use globally, it still produced around 37% of the world’s electricity in 2019.
Countries like South Africa, Poland and India will need major investments to make their energy sectors cleaner.
Juan Pablo Osornio, head of Greenpeace’s delegation at COP26, said: “Overall this statement still falls well short of the ambition needed on fossil fuels in this critical decade.”
He added: “The small print seemingly gives countries enormous leeway to pick their own phase-out date, despite the shiny headline.”