Climate change adaptation and mitigation have become key policy drivers in the UK under its Climate Change Act of 2008. At the same time, urbanization has been high on the agenda, given the pressing need for substantial additional housing, particularly in southeast England. These twin policy objectives were brought together in the UK government’s ‘eco-town’ initiative for England launched in 2007, which has since resulted in four eco-town projects currently under development. We critically analyze the eco-town initiative’s policy evolution and early planning phase from a multilevel governance perspective by focusing on the following two interrelated aspects: (1) the evolving governance structures and resulting dynamics arising from the development of the eco-town initiative at UK governmental level, and the subsequent partial devolution to local stakeholders, including local authorities and nongovernmental actors, under the new ‘localism’ agenda; and (2) the effect of these governance dynamics on the conceptual and practical approach to adaptation through the emerging eco-town projects. As such, we problematize the impact of multilevel governance relations, and competing governance strategies and leadership, on shaping eco-town and related adaptation strategies and practice.