The threat of climate change is emerging at a time of rapid growth for many economies in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Dominant narratives comprising ambitious development plans are common and often based around sectors with strong inter-dependencies that are highly exposed to climate variability. Using document analysis and key informant interviews, this article examines how climate change is addressed in policy, how it is being mainstreamed into water, energy and agriculture sector policies and the extent to which cross-sectoral linkages enable coordinated action. These questions are addressed through a case study of Tanzania, highlighting broader lessons for other developing countries, particularly those in SSA facing similar challenges. The article finds that, while the agriculture and water sectors are increasingly integrating climate change into policies and plans in Tanzania, practical coordination on adaptation remains relatively superficial. Publication of the Tanzania National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) in 2007 marked a step change in the integration of climate change in sectoral policies and plans; however, it may have reinforced a sectoral approach to climate change. Examining the policies for coherence highlights overlaps and complementarities which lend themselves to a coordinated approach. Institutional constraints (particularly structures and resources) restrict opportunities for inter-sectoral action and thus collaboration is confined to ad hoc projects with mixed success to date. The results highlight the need for institutional frameworks that recognize and address these constraints to enable development goals to be pursued in a more sustainable and climate-resilient manner.