Transnational actors are critical for financing programs and generating awareness around climate change adaptation in cities. However, it is unclear whether transnational support actually enables more authority over adaptation actions and whether outcomes address wide-ranging development needs. In this article, I compare experiences from three cities in India—Surat, Indore, and Bhubaneswar—and link local political agency over adaptation with their supporting transnational funders. I find that adaptation governance involves powers of agency over directing bureaucratic practices, public finance, spatial strategies, and institutional culture. A city’s ability to exert these powers then yields different patterns of adaptation. However, political agency is circumscribed by a combination of historical political economic constraints and emerging transnational resources that promote specific forms of political meaning and procedures. The presence of external support therefore paradoxically constrains the governance autonomy of cities. This opens up new opportunities for development dependency—that is, ones that mirror neoliberal critiques of foreign aid—within the global marketplace for climate finance.

You do not currently have access to this content.