This overview adopts a critical social science perspective to examine the state of play and potential futures for coal in the context of climate change. It introduces key trends in coal consumption, production and trade, before appraising the relevant literature. Finding surprisingly little literature directly focussed on coal and climate change compared with related fields, it appraises existing work and highlights key areas for future work. In addition to established bodies of work on the situated politics of coal and the political economy of coal, new work calling for demand side policies to be supplemented with supply side policies highlights the increasing importance of how normative contestations drive debates over coal, suggesting that future work needs to engage not only much more directly with climate change as an issue, but particularly with the place of coal in a just transition. Because of coal’s mammoth contribution to climate change and the complex political economy which drives its production and consumption, it is likely that coal will remain at the centre of difficult questions about the relationship between climate action and development for some time.