Resilience- and adaptation-oriented policies are formulated and implemented against a backdrop of struggles within and between nations, regions, classes, ethnicities, and households. Even programs with the ostensible goal of ensuring minimum livelihood for climate-vulnerable populations involve tradeoffs and contests over the distribution of power and resources. Given this, what are the effects of different social protection policy regimes on equity under climate change? The present paper seeks to address this question through a comparative-historical analysis of adaptive social protection policy regimes in Bangladesh and Ethiopia, two of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries. Preliminary conclusions suggest that, while Ethiopia has been relatively more effective at shorter term safety net programs, Bangladesh has been relatively more effective at longer term livelihood adaptations. I trace these outcomes to their political roots: an authoritarian party-state in Ethiopia with a vested interest in preserving stability but few incentives to promote adaptive change, and a fragmented and clientelistic state in Bangladesh that fails to ensure an equitable safety net but nonetheless has successfully promoted adaptive climate-smart livelihood in important ways. I conclude by discussing how both cases could benefit from improved bottom-up accountability mechanisms, but in different ways.