At COP21 in Paris parties to the UNFCCC reiterated the goal of USD 100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020 and agreed to set a more ambitious target by 2025. A significant portion of these funds is intended to flow through the newly operational Green Climate Fund and will be dedicated to climate change adaptation in developing countries. Meanwhile, growing support for adaptation is already flowing through diverse channels. International debates continue, not only over the amount of adaptation finance, but also with regard to fund governance. In particular, developing countries are seeking greater country control through increased participation in high-level decision-making and ‘direct access' to adaptation funds. This paper proposes an overview of the primary channels currently employed in the emerging adaptation finance field, with particular attention to governance characteristics relevant to international debates. This analysis suggests that while both developing-country participation in decision-making and ‘direct access' to funds have increased in some cases, the vast majority of adaptation finance continues to flow through traditional development aid channels and does not respond to developing countries' concerns regarding fund governance. If adaptation finance structures are not perceived as legitimate by developing countries, a global, coordinated response to climate change may be put at risk. Further, the implications, in terms of social justice and the effectiveness of adaptation, of conducting adaptation along the lines of development are currently under-represented in the literature. Given the goal of mobilising, for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, USD 100 billion per year by 2020, there is an urgent need for empirical research in this domain.