A growing number of cities in the global South are taking proactive action on climate change. Their plans provide insights into the potential for strategically bundling long‐term development policymaking with the climate agenda. In this article I study the case of Delhi, the first city in India to adopt a climate change action plan. Drawing on the literature on urban ecological security, I examine: (1) the adaptation challenges that Delhi faces; (2) the multiple motivations that underlie early action; (3) the key actors, strategies, and associated action domains outlined in the plan; and (4) the extent to which the plan seeks to bring about systemic change. Proactive action at the city level serves multiple strategic goals. Delhi’s case is significant in illustrating how it has leveraged emergent opportunities to advance its short‐term development agenda, given the tight fiscal constraints and governance challenges it faces. The plan has been strategically formulated to enhance competiveness, facilitate image‐building, garner support for pet projects and access alternative sources of funding. But the short‐term orientation of the plan and its limited mechanisms for citizen engagement have severely restrained its capacity to address underlying social vulnerabilities or bring about transformative change.