The coastline of Kenya already experiences effects of climate change, adding to existing pressures such as urbanization. Integrated coastal management (ICM) is increasingly recognized as a key policy response to deal with the multiple challenges facing coastal zones, including climate change. It can create an enabling governance environment for effective local action on climate change by facilitating a structured approach to dealing with coastal issues. It encompasses the actions of a wide range of actors, including local governments close to people and their activities affected by climate change. Functioning ICM also offers opportunities for reducing risks and building resilience. This article applied a modified capitals approach framework (CAF), consisting of five “capitals,” to assess the status of county government capacity to respond to climate change within the context of coastal governance in three county governments in Kenya. The baseline was defined in terms of governance relating to the implementation of the interrelated policy systems of ICM and coastal climate change adaptation (CCA). The CAF framework provided a systematic approach to building a governance baseline against which to assess the progress of county governments in responding to climate change. It identified gaps in human capacity, financial resource allocation to adaptation and access to climate change information. Furthermore, it showed that having well‐developed institutions, including regulatory frameworks at the national level can facilitate but does not automatically enable adaptation at the county level.