This ODI opinion paper examines experience from Bangladesh and Ethiopia to set out five key steps to successful climate change adaptation: 1. Coordinated and systemised assessment of the best available climate change science at national, local and, where needed, regional levels 2. Knowledge that is adequately and demonstrably reflected in adaptation programmes and is ‘verified’ across a wide spectrum of development institutions 3. Adaptation strategies should be grounded in good development practice at all levels 4. A clear strategy for the implementation of adaptation strategies, including cross-sectoral dimensions and disbursement of funds 5. Parallel investment in the continued development of knowledge at national and regional levels to improve the decision-making environment and the capacity of researchers and decision-makers to make the important connections between research, knowledge, policy and practice.