This paper looks at adaptation to climate change from the point of view of (poor) households. Since the development literature has firmly established the role of weather risk as a source of income volatility for the poor, and climate change is expected to increase this risk, we review the range of risk-coping mechanisms available to poorer households, with a focus on possible barriers to adaptation. We ask both how government interventions affect the set of options available for adaptation and risk coping, and also what these adaptive responses imply for the prospects of sustainable development. Support for adaptation can involve efforts to make existing locations, livelihoods and forms of production more resilient to climate risk (in-situ adaptation), or reductions in vulnerability through the geographical and sectoral mobility of the poor (transformational adaptation). Our review shows how successful adaptation will need to strike a balance between the two forms of adaptation, avoiding locking-in unsustainable practices in locations that are already marginal from an economic perspective, and taking account of broader socio-economic trends already taking place in many developing countries (such as population growth and urbanisation). We also highlight important considerations for policy-makers, which to date have been relatively neglected in the literature, in particular related to the dynamic interaction between adaptation and sustainable development.