In the last decade there has been a significant shift in the framing of climate governance. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has moved from an explicit focus on mitigation, to also include adaptation. Climate change is no longer simply about reducing emissions but also about enabling countries to deal with its impacts – be it on development, migration, or health. Yet most studies of the climate regime have focused on the evolution of mitigation governance, not adaptation. This tendency is partly because adaptation was considered a ‘taboo’ topic in the UNFCCC as many states did not want to concede that climate change was occurring, or did not want it to be considered a substitute for mitigation. In short, global adaptation governance is understudied and poorly conceptualized. In this paper, we ask: what constitutes and characterizes global adaptation governance? We attempt to characterize governance efforts in terms of what, who and how adaptation is governed. We examine: the constituent parts of an emerging regime (principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures), the institutions involved, and how these parts have been manifested in concrete modes of governance (standards and commitments, operations, finance, knowledge and networking). To aid this mapping, we use the mitigation regime as a heuristic for comparison. We find that there is indeed an emerging global regime around adaptation, although characterized by ‘soft’ procedural and facilitative modes of governance. Furthermore the institutional complexity and fragmentation we see in global adaptation governance arises for different reasons than for the mitigation regime. Namely the epistemic ambiguity around adaptation, including its scalar framing, and the power politics around controlling donor funds for adaptation. This paper contributes to our understanding of the shift in framing of global climate governance, from mitigation to adaptation, and the coherence of this regime.