In the Paris Agreement, it is stated that country’s vulnerability to climate change is a key factor to decide where and how to allocate adaptation funds. However, the distribution of available funds continues to be a controversial point of discussion. To inform this discussion, we look at how policy makers could be differentiating regions for financing countries adaptation needs. We synthesize the results of global vulnerability assessments and conclude that in spite of some agreement between global vulnerability distribution and current funding allocation based on income groups, climate vulnerability remains a nuanced and problematic concept. In a search for increased transparency to inform adaptation financing, we analyze the new risk approach brought forward in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. A main advantage of this new formulation is a clearer distinction between physical hazards and vulnerability, where vulnerability is solely driven by societal factors. Notwithstanding, the risk approach comes with some shortfalls, not least in terms of scale mismatches. This confirms that more efforts could be devoted in exploring appropriate scales (from both climatological and societal perspectives) and methodologies for embedding the vulnerability approach in a risk framework. However, a prev- alent disconnect between science and policy on issues of adaptation financing has so far impeded the shift from earlier formulation of vulnerability to a risk concept in the policy arena. The IPCC has a pivotal role to play in filling this gap by leading a country-level assessment that can serve as a basis for prioritizing adaptation financing.