Integrated coastal management (ICM) has been developing concomitantly with the realisation of the severity of the potential impacts of climate change. The discourse on climate change and adaptation has also included the awareness that adaptation must take place at all levels of government, particularly local government. Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the physical, social, environmental and economic environments of coastal cities and towns, and in particular on the poor and vulnerable communities within these cities and towns. The crucial role that local government can play in climate protection and building cities' and communities' resilience to climate change is widely recognised at the global level. This paper explores the legal and policy connexion between ICM, local government and climate change in Mozambique and South Africa, two developing countries in Africa. The state of institutionalisation of coastal management at national through to local government is also examined. The authors contend that the state, character and maturity of the ICM policy domain can create an enabling environment within which local government agencies can prepare for future impacts of climate change. Conversely it can also limit, delay and hinder climate change adaptation. The paper concludes with the identification of some key success factors for assessing the effectiveness of the existing policy and legal frameworks to respond to the challenges of climate change. It also identifies some key principles to be included in future legislative reform to promote ICM, cooperative governance and greater preparedness for climate change at local government level.