It is increasingly clear that atmospheric carbon dioxide removal will be necessary to limit global warming to below 2 degrees. Today the primary candidate to achieve this removal is bioenergy carbon capture and storage (CCS). Similarly, energy derived from coal with sufficiently low emissions for stringent climate change mitigation (i.e. clean coal) cannot be achieved without CCS. This article argues that the prior or simultaneous establishment of coal CCS provides an important stepping stone to the future diffusion of bioenergy CCS. However, progress on coal CCS is sluggish and needs further rationale to give it impetus. With appropriate policy intervention, the impending need for bioenergy CCS can provide this impetus. Policy makers should not consider coal CCS as simply an end in itself but also as a means to an end.