Current adaptation practices are largely focusing on ‘adapting to’ climatic disturbances instead of ‘adapting with’ the vulnerable urban populations. Proponents of this trajectory have been accused of missing out on opportunities such as those that emerge when climatic risks are jointly treated with environmental sustainability concerns. This pathway involves hurried responses to climate change external stimuli and ignores internal urban processes (e.g., urbanisation, migration, urban poverty and pandemics) that expose people to climatic risks. Climate change can be both an opportunity and a threat to environmental sustainability. However, if adaptation practices are hastily executed, they are likely to miss on opportunities to address underlying non-climatic drivers of vulnerability, which lead to sustainable development failures. In order to evade this problem, we propose that urban development practitioners should move from the usual ‘adapting to’ climate change mantra to ‘adapting with’ the people through transformative adaptation. Our argument attempts to address the question about how to make adaptation sustainable amidst growing challenges in environmental unsustainability. We argue that transformative adaptation is capable of jointly dealing with climate change and urban development challenges as it holistically deals with the underlying vulnerability risks in urban settlements while addressing the root causes of poverty. The transformative adaptation paradigm is inclusive and demands action of local government in leading the transformative development agenda through working with all urban stakeholders. In its execution, transformative adaption ensures civil society participation, climate change mainstreaming, and enhanced climate change information and knowledge, and is capable of unlocking climate financing (both domestic and international) while spurring urban development opportunities and job creation.