In the emerging field of climate adaptation, deliberative governance initiatives are proposed to yield better adaptation strategies. However, introducing these network-centred deliberations between public and private players may contrast with institutionalized traditions of interest intermediation between state and society. This paper shows how these so-called state traditions affect the processes and outcomes of newly set up deliberative governance initiatives. Because of the similarities in geographical characteristics and the differences in state tradition we conducted a qualitative case study comparison of Dutch and British water management. Our comparison is two-fold. First, we compare deliberative governance initiatives in the different state traditions of the Netherlands and UK. Second, we compare the newly set up deliberative governance initiative to an existing policy regime mainstreaming climate adaptation in a similar state tradition, in our case the Netherlands. We find that: (1) deliberative governance initiatives in the corporatist state tradition of the Netherlands yields learning but shows apathy among politically elected decision-makers compared to deliberative governance initiatives in the pluralist state tradition of the UK where clearly defined rules and responsibilities yields negotiation and action; and (2) a typical corporatist policy regime mainstreaming climate adaption in a corporatist state tradition yields effective and legitimate policy formation but lacks learning.