Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how past experiences in implementing disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities can be harnessed to conceptualise effective and appropriate climate change adaptation (CCA) programs in Indonesia. The authors propose a conceptual framework for integrating DRR and CCA in managing climate-related risks and explain the need for joint implementation. Design/methodology/approach – The study is conducted through review and analysis of academic, government and non-government literature to determine the Indonesian experience in integrating DRR and CCA. Interviews were conducted with 26 DRR and CCA stakeholders in Indonesia. Findings – The authors make three propositions in this paper. First, there needs to be a re-orientation of the institutional arrangements for DRR and CCA, to increase the effectiveness of planning and implementation. Second, DRR and CCA activities needed to be stronger supported at the local level, with a specific aim to reduce the underlying causes of vulnerability of communities at risk. Third, non-government organisations play a very important role in integrating DRR and CCA through community-based initiatives. Research limitations/implications – While this paper focuses specifically on Indonesia, the findings are relevant to other countries with similar geographical and socio-economic conditions, as they are likely to face similar challenges. Practical implications – The paper provides practical suggestions on what steps government actors, at all political levels, can do to support the integration of DRR and CCA planning and implementation activities in Indonesia. Originality/value – The paper is one of the first to document progress in integrating DRR and CCA in Indonesia.