Researchers and policy makers agreed that we need to take measures now to respond to climate change impacts in the future. As the EU, its Member States and regions start to organise their adaptation efforts, it is important to understand the institutional contexts and potential challenges that might arise in the course of developing and implementing adaptation policies. This paper gives an overview of governance problems and decision-making needs that policy makers currently face. Based on empirical research in eight European countries, we mapped out the institutional context in which adaptation decisions are made and identified ten categories of needs as perceived by core policy-makers. We found no significant patterns as to why certain countries have specific needs, but there are indications that the needs change during the adaptation planning process and that Central and Eastern European countries might benefit from EU coordination efforts.