Tropical forests are vulnerable to climate-change representing a risk for indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities. Mechanisms to conserve the forest, such as REDD+, could assist in the mitigation of climate change, reduce vulnerability, and enable people to adapt. Ninety-eight interviews were conducted in three countries containing the Congo Basin forest, Cameroon, CAR, and DRC, to investigate perceptions of decision-makers within, and responses of the institutions of the state, private sector, and civil society to the challenges of climate change. Results indicate that while decision-makers' awareness of climate change is high, direct institutional action is at an early stage. Adaptive capacity is currently low, but it could be enhanced with further development of institutional linkages and increased coordination of multilevel responses across all institutions and with local people. It is important to build networks with forest-dependent stakeholders at the local level, who can contribute knowledge that will build overall institutional adaptive capacity.