This paper examines medium and long-term perspectives for global steam coal production and trade, considering the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and plausible recovery scenarios in its aftermath. We use an interdisciplinary approach to develop a range of stylized global coal demand scenarios until 2040 depicting the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recovery stimuli. Additional insights are gained by adjusting trade restrictions of key countries within the coal sector model COALMOD-World to resemble plausible post-COVID-19 policy and market dynamics. Results indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic might cause an “L” or “\” shape instead of the hoped for “V” or “U” shaped recovery of the coal industry. Regional effects vary, as the Atlantic market dries out first, causing shifts in trade patterns in the Pacific market. Moreover, announced trade restrictions could change dramatically the composition of the international steam coal trade. However, even significantly reduced coal consumption levels in low-coal post-COVID-19 scenarios would still be too high to comply with the global climate targets. This emphasizes the importance of concentrated policy efforts in the pandemic aftermath to manage a coal decline consistent with global climate targets while bringing just transitions efforts substantially forward, in particular in vulnerable coal-dependent countries and regions.