Coastal settlements, home to more than three billion people and growing rapidly, are highly vulnerable to climate change. Increasingly, there are calls for climate adaptation that goes beyond business-as-usual approaches, transforms socioeconomic systems, and addresses underlying drivers of vulnerability. Although calls for transformational adaptation are growing, greater clarity is needed on what transformation means in context in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice. This article reviews the theoretical literature on transformational adaptation, as well as practitioner frameworks and case studies of urban coastal adaptation. The article discusses specific challenges for transformational adaptation and its governance in coastal cities. In doing so, this review contributes to the growing debate about operationalizing the concept of transformational adaptation in the context of coastal cities and offers insights to ensure that transformation processes are inclusive and equitable.


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