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Lutheran Disaster Response at COP28

What is COP?

COP28 took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from Nov. 30 – Dec.12, 2023. LWF/Albin Hillert

COP stands for the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is “the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC.”

What is the UNFCCC?

The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty drafted in 1992 and enacted in 1994 among 198 parties. Both the Kyoto Protocol and the subsequent Paris Agreement are implementation measures of the UNFCCC. The purpose of UNFCC is “to combat dangerous human interference in the climate system.”

Who from the ELCA attended COP28?

This year Christine Moolo (Program Director for World Hunger Initiatives), Savannah Jorgenson (Legislative Coordinator at the California State Public Policy Office) and I were honored to serve as virtual observers with an ELCA delegation. Our colleagues from Witness in Society, Tammy Wahloff (Director of Minnesota State Public Policy Office), Regina Banks (Director of California State Public Policy Office) and Christine Moffett (Program Director of Environmental Policy) served as in-person observers.

Why is Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) present at COP?

We join hundreds of ecumenical and interfaith partners because climate change is an existential threat to human civilization, per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). First, we have a baptismal calling to “the reconciliation of all creation.” Moreover, the ELCA’s disaster response ministry is already responding to more frequent and severe climate-related disasters. The LDR Initiatives program is responsible for disaster risk reduction work (hazard mitigation and disaster preparedness). Mitigating the worst impacts of climate change – anything above a net 2.0-degree Celsius global temperature rise – is disaster risk reduction. Additionally, LDR does not do this work alone; we participate with other members of the ACT Alliance and Lutheran World Federation from around the world, to coordinate this effort.

How is this disaster response?

LDR is committed to accompanying communities throughout the disaster cycle. In addition to response and recovery, mitigation and preparation are part of this cycle. Additionally, emerging research demonstrates investments in mitigation reduce the cost of future disasters by up to 600%. Simply put, disaster risk reduction is an investment in our collective future.

Delegates of the Lutheran World Federation gather for a Global March for Climate Justice at COP28. LWF/Albin Hillert

Isn’t climate change political?

Yes. The word politics is derived from the Greek word for city – polis (as in metropolis). Anything having to do with our public life together as a society is political, even disasters. This is articulated in the ELCA social statement on Church in Society as the church’s obligation to, “work with and on behalf of the poor, the powerless, and those who suffer, using its power and influence with political and economic decision-making bodies to develop and advocate policies that seek to advance justice, peace, and the care of creation.”

This is easier said than done. I would be remiss if I did not honor the stories of colleagues from areas of high levels of climate skepticism who share that the mention of climate change can shut down an entire conversation. As the Church we are called to preach the truth in ways diverse communities can receive. In some places we may not be able to say the words “climate change,” but we can discuss concerns about the impact of increased severe weather on people’s livelihoods and communities. Climate change, like many problems, will not go away just because we ignore it.

How can I learn more about the ELCA’s experience and impact at COP28?

On Jan. 24, the ELCA delegation from COP28 will share our experiences during a webinar. I am inviting you!

Resister here:

If you have any questions about mitigating climate change, disaster risk reduction, or the LDR initiatives program, please reach out to me at

Pastor Matthew Zemanick (he/they) is the Program Director for Lutheran Disaster Response Initiatives.









Human Rights and Climate Change

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), written to address the atrocities committed during World War II. Since then, the United Nations and other bodies have adopted additional documents on human rights. The International Bill of Human Rights includes the UDHR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Not included in the UDHR is any statement related to climate change – it wasn’t a known concern in the 1940s. However, in the years since, the United Nations has published additional documents about other human rights. One such report from the United Nations Environment Programme discusses the impact of climate change on rights.

A group holding a banner reading 'No Climate Justice without Human Rights'. The group is pictured in front of a large pillar with the COP27 slogan 'Together for Implementation' on display.

People from around the globe rally at the venue of the United Nations climate change conference COP27 in Egypt, calling for respect of human rights. LWF/Albin Hillert

The introduction to the report says, “Anthropogenic climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and human rights of our time.…These impacts, combined with direct harms to people, property, and physical infrastructure, pose a serious threat to the enjoyment and exercise of human rights around the world.”

To name a few impacts, climate change causes warmer global temperatures, rising sea levels and changes in precipitation patterns. These consequences put numerous human rights in jeopardy, as outlined in the UN report:

  • Right to adequate standard of living: Disasters negatively impact living conditions for several reasons. Wildfires and storms can destroy or damage homes. Droughts and floods can ruin crops and endanger animals, which affects people’s livelihoods, especially in communities around the world that rely on agriculture and livestock.
  • Right to health: The impacts of climate change are dangerous for people’s health. Pollution is harmful to people living in heavily populated areas or near factories. When people lose food sources, such as livestock and crops, or access to uncontaminated water, they face malnutrition and disease.
  • Right to life: Climate change threatens the right to life every day for people around the world. More severe disasters can lead to more lives being lost. Losing the right to an adequate standard of living, health, food, water and other necessities threatens peoples’ lives daily. This is especially true for people of color and those living in vulnerable communities and countries, which suffer disproportionately when hit by a disaster.

Climate change endangers the human rights of people around the world, especially those in under-resourced communities and developing countries. Lutheran Disaster Response prioritizes the accompaniment of those who are most adversely impacted by consequences of the changing climate. During long-term recovery, we work with communities in mitigating the effects of future disasters, building resilience, and expanding preparedness capacity, knowing that disasters will continue to be more extreme.

Effective disaster response upholds all the rights described in the UDHR and subsequent documents. Even when people’s lives are upended by natural or human-caused disasters, their human rights should not be at stake. That’s why the work of Lutheran Disaster Response and our local partners in the United States and around the world is so important – after a disaster, when our neighbors are living in uncertainty, we walk with impacted communities, responding to their needs and supporting recovery efforts while simultaneously celebrating their strength and resilience.


Get involved

  1. Advocate. Visit the ELCA Advocacy Action Center to contact your congress members about vital issues impacting our communities, including government disaster response program reform and supporting refugees.
  2. Study. Read the ELCA’s social message “Earth’s Climate Crisis.” It provides theological rationale and social analysis to foster discernment and engagement relating to climate care.
  3. Volunteer. By volunteering in local disaster response through your synod or regional social ministry organization, you can ensure that survivors’ rights to adequate living is met.
  4. Donate. Lutheran Disaster Response is a trusted partner in disaster response. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response help accompany our neighbors when their lives are upended by disaster. 100% of your gifts to a designated disaster go to disaster survivors.

Re-Post: Can We Talk About Climate Change?

Can We Talk About Climate Change?

By: Hannah Mornement

unspecifiedAfter an intense two weeks of negotiations at the climate change summit in Paris a historic agreement was reached but for the people of Northern Ethiopia it is already too late. They are already experiencing the effects of El Niño, a global climate phenomenon which has already driven up global temperatures and was made worse by climate change. Experts say that 2016 will leave millions hungry and cause water shortages and disease outbreaks.

In addition to their usual struggles Ethiopians many of whom already live in poverty are experiencing the additional effects of global warming. A country whose economy heavily depends on agriculture, with over 80% of its 93 million population small scale farmers and pastoralists, it is now bearing the brunt of this negative impact leading to increased poverty, water scarcity and food insecurity. By January 2016 the United Nations predicted that 15 million people will need food aid. This current drought is set to be the worst in 30 years.

Failed harvest

“This is the worst harvest I have seen” said Woday Gelaye, 75, who has been farming in this area for over 60 years. “Because of the recurrent drought and the heavy, short rainy season even his chickpea crop has been put back.” Extending his hand he shows me just a few small chickpea pulses. This crop too is meager. Having had to sell his ox to buy additional food for his wife, eight children and four grandchildren he no longer has the help needed to plough his other 2 small fields – and nothing left to sell.

After the failure of his crops earlier in the season the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) provided Woday with 31kg of seeds.

His situation sadly is no exception. It is estimated that 73,000 people in this region of Ethiopia have been affected by the failed harvest due to the unpredictable climate, and will need emergency food aid to tide them over before the next harvest in a few monts. There are currently 768 people benefiting from the LWF Emergency Seed Program. Mr Gelaye is one of the lucky beneficiaries.

Just 2 hours down the dusty road from Meket to Lalibela, blending into the thirsty landscape a brother and sister live on a small farm with her 3 year old child. Debre, 21 and Baye, 19, are not part of the LWF Food Security Project and just weeks away from having absolutely nothing left. “The rain started late, we thought we were managing well, but when the crops were at knee level. The heavy rain came and destroyed everything. To survive we started to sell our goats, sheep and cows. My biggest fear now is that if the government doesn’t help soon we will have to leave – migrate to a nearby district or perhaps Sudan.”

Livestock are the life of these arid lowlands, but more and more families have to sell their cattle, leaving them even more vulnerable than before.

New farming techniques

Things have to change if the people are going to survive generation after generation in this region. The LWF, who have been working in Ethiopia for 43 years and in this region for the last 10 years, are doing just that – with their Food Security Project. Budgeted for 3 years it was started at the end of 2014 and is benefiting around 4,670 people, just 2.7 percent of the district’s population. It is comprised of an irrigation scheme, irrigation agronomy and crop production, vegetable production, compost technology, conservation agriculture – introduced by CLWR (Canadian Lutheran World Relief) – water management, seedling production and distribution amongst other agricultural related tasks. All these projects are using tools that are available to the farmers, like manure. A team of LWF experts are teaching them how to get the most out of the land.

Shamble, 46, has already profited within the first year. He has been part of LWF’s Food Security Project in Midaghe for a year and was trained in irrigation agronomy along with crop and vegetable production.

“I was also trained in compost production and given an improved variety of drought resistant teff.” Teff is an important food grain in Ethiopia which is used to make the typical injera bread. “I have also benefited from the cash for work scheme, digging the irrigation trench, and working as a guard overnight. My life and my family’s life has really improved, I have built a new house and been able to buy some sheep and cows.”

Development projects like these are crucial if the future generations are to survive. Climate phenomena like El Niño are not new occurrences, but scientists say that global warming has contributed to making them larger and more damaging. Without projects like LWFs Food Security Program the people of Ethiopia face a bleak future. This is a country that has suffered for decades but is desperately trying to help itself. We cannot afford turn a blind eye. The lives and livelihoods of millions of people are at stake.

Hannah Mornement is the daughter of Adrienne Mornement who worked with LWF in 1985 in the Nekemte region, in Ethiopia. She went back to visit the program after 30 years.

Edited by LWF Communications.

Lutheran Disaster Response has already committed $70,000 to this project. It is our hope that as the need rises, we will be able to continually accompany out partner, Lutheran World Federation in creating food-secure communities.

Be a part of the response:


Please pray for all those affected by this crisis. Remember those who have lost everything and all those who are working to respond. You can use these prayers and resources in your worship services.


Your gifts are needed now to help with immediate relief to assist those directly impacted by the droughts and other climate change related disasters. Gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response will be used to provide immediate, life-saving aid.


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To Learn More:

Visit the Lutheran World Federation’s website.

Read our past blogs