Nepal and Pakistan face a triple challenge of political instability, weak governance and vulnerability to climate change. Communities are highly vulnerable to floods, landslides and droughts. However, the reasons for their vulnerability are complex and differ from location to location. This study has two objectives. First, we analyze and compare the vulnerability of communities to environmental risks in three districts of Nepal with communities in three districts of Pakistan. While we address environmental exposure and sensitivity, the main focus is placed on adaptive capacity including obstacles to adaptation and maladaptation. Second, we explore how the resilience of communities is affected by the combination of environmental risks and weak governance. To identify common and different attributes between and within the two research regions, we apply a comparative conceptual framework to guide the community level case study research conducted in 2011 and 2012 in the Banke, Dang and Rolpa districts of Nepal, and the Badin, Karachi and Thatta districts of Pakistan. We interviewed a total of 288 respondents, including community members and key informants. Our findings suggest that poor governance is a central obstacle to adaptation in both countries but driven by different factors. Examples of maladaptation to climate change risks include provision of rice which undermines the production of traditional crops in Nepal and a water project in Pakistan exposing local communities to floods. The challenge is to improve relations between governance providers and local communities while addressing consequences of environmental risks, including migration and conflict.