The international community has committed to achieve 169 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets by 2030 and to enhance climate adaptation under the Paris Agreement. Despite the potential for synergies, aligning SDG and climate adaptation efforts is inhibited by an inadequate understanding of the complex relationship between SDG targets and adaptation to impacts of climate change. Here we propose a framework to conceptualise how ecosystems and socio-economic sectors mediate this relationship, which provides a more nuanced understanding of the impacts of climate change on all 169 SDG targets. Global application of the framework reveals that adaptation of wetlands, rivers, cropland, construction, water, electricity, and housing in the most vulnerable countries is required to safeguard achievement of 68% of SDG targets from near-term climate risk by 2030. We discuss how our framework can help align National Adaptation Plans with SDG targets, thus ensuring that adaptation advances, rather than detracts from, sustainable development.