The paper seeks to explain a major inconsistency of global climate governance: while directly linked to two major pillars of the Bali Action Plan – adaptation and technology – the development and transfer of adaptation technologies (e.g. information systems, irrigation equipments, crop varieties) only play a secondary role in negotiations under the climate convention. Likewise, adaptation technologies take a back seat in other international arenas such as the WTO and new technology partnerships (e.g. the Asia-Pacific Partnership or the Major Economies Forum). Based on institutionalist theories, the paper argues that one reason for this imbalance is the constellation of interests among powerful countries. Some common ground has emerged among industrialized countries and leading developing countries (such as Brazil, China or India) who share an interest in technology cooperation for low-carbon development. For mitigation technologies, the growth rates, mitigation potentials and enabling environments of major developing countries promise considerable investment returns. Moreover, the bulk of funding for mitigation technologies comes from private sources. On the other hand, negotiators from industrialized countries are much more reluctant to address adaptation technologies. The necessary funding processes would hardly yield significant investment returns and hence require a much bigger role of public donors. The global financial crisis provides additional motivation for donors to concentrate on low-carbon development while further side-lining the issue of adaptation technologies and the associated interests of least developed countries. By scrutinizing this imbalance and the distributional effects of a particular strand of environmental governance, the paper seeks to contribute to the conference theme of ‘justice, equity and distribution’. In order to tackle this imbalance, mitigation and adaptation technologies should be addressed in a common framework under a future climate governance architecture. This framework would need to build on cross-institutional guidelines and a meaningful division of labour between UNFCCC bodies and external technology agreements.