Island communities are the targets for a wide range of interventions designed to help them adapt to climate change. A growing body of research explores the equity and justice implications of adaptation policies and programmes, revealing they often exacerbate, rather than alleviate, inequality within at-risk communities. This paper pushes beyond existing understandings of climate justice, which prioritise its distributive and procedural aspects. Through household surveys, interviews and participant observation, the paper presents a case study of a major adaptation project in a small island community in the Philippines, paying particular attention to its equity implications at the local level. It describes how local politics and power relations distorted the well-intentioned aims of the project and resulted in the project exacerbating, rather than alleviating, pre-existing inequality. Climate change adaptation is a deeply political process that is easily subverted by the interests of the powerful. To mitigate the influence of power and politics in future climate adaptation projects, we present an expanded multidimensional framework for assessing adaptative justice that incorporates the neglected aspects of recognition and structure.