Adaptation to climate change has steadily risen on global policy agendas and entered a new era with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which established a global goal on adaptation. While this goal responds to calls to strengthen global governance of adaptation, it has not yet been operationalized. Further, few studies take stock of current global adaptation governance to inform the implementation of the goal.

Global adaptation governance is defined in this article as occurring when state and non‐state actors in the global (including transnational) sphere authoritatively and intentionally shape the actions of constituents towards climate change adaptation as a public goal. Although empirical evidence is scant, the authors propose that global adaptation governance is indeed emerging. Further strengthening of it, however, appears to be contested. First, measurement of progress towards adaptation as a public goal at the global level is severely challenged by the ambiguity of adaptation and the lack of distinct metrics. Second, the lack of clear global‐level problem‐framing, or recognition of adaptation as a global public good, has meant that global governance initiatives have lacked legitimacy. As a consequence, governance forms and functions have not so far been authoritative in how they seek to shape actions. The review concludes by identifying research needs for advancing science and policy on adaptation.