In 2012, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) moved from a vulnerability to a risk-based conception of climate change adaptation. However, there are few examples of work that translates this approach into climate change adaptation practice, in order to demonstrate the practical utility of following a risk-based approach to adapting to climate change. The paper explores critically the differing conceptions of vulnerability and risk across the literature relating to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. The paper also examines a selection of spatially focused climate change vulnerability and risk assessment methodologies in this context. In doing so, we identify issues with the availability of spatial data to enable spatial risk-based climate change assessments. We argue that the concept of risk is potentially favorable in helping cities to understand the challenges posed by climate change, identify adaptation options, and build resilience to the changing climate. However, we suggest that change is needed in the way that practitioners and policymakers engage with risk-based concepts if they are to be embed into climate change adaptation activities.