It has been a difficult year for children around the world, particularly girls.

For a fourth season, the rains did not come to the Horn of Africa. Crops have failed, livestock are dying and hunger among the region’s 10 million acutely malnourished children is growing daily.

In Pakistan, where the rains would not cease, millions were affected, including 16 million children, causing widespread water-borne disease and wiping out half the country’s breadbasket.

Wildfires raged through vulnerable communities from Greece to Canada, and storms swept through Puerto Rico and Florida, leading to loss of life and land, coastlines, livelihoods, crops, livestock, ecosystems, biodiversity and infrastructure.

“Loss and damage is happening right now,” Ugandan climate justice advocate Vanessa Nakate reminded world leaders earlier this year. “We can’t adapt to the loss of our cultures. The loss of our identities. The loss of our histories. We can’t adapt to extinction, to starvation. We can’t adapt to loss and damage.”

In an echo to Nakate, a rising chorus of youth voices is growing across the front lines of climate change as they demand “loss and damage finance — now!” It is a message young climate justice advocates are taking to world leaders gathered this week at COP27 in Egypt.

The science on climate change is clear and warns us that the impacts from the climate crisis are going to get significantly worse unless urgent action is taken, particularly in the Global South.

Communities and young people are feeling these impacts — yet, they are the least responsible for a changing climate. Between 1990 and 2015, the richest one per cent of the world’s population was responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest 50 per cent. It is the children and grandchildren, particularly the daughters and granddaughters, of the poorest 3.1 billion people in developing nations who will pay the price for increased life-altering devastation due to climate change.

Climate change is also coming at great economic cost for nations in the Global South, with costs of loss and damage potentially rising to $1.8 trillion yearly by 2050. It is an issue that China and the G77, currently chaired by Pakistan, are championing at COP27.

As global leaders descend on Egypt, all nations — including Canada — must commit to a loss and damage financing mechanism to address irreversible and life-changing impacts of climate change on young people, following the lead of Germany, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Scotland.

As Canada's Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault recently noted at the launch of a progress report in the lead-up to COP, countries need to do more to contribute to closing the global gap in climate finance.

It is not enough, however, to develop this funding mechanism. Funding must reach the most vulnerable: those in the Global South who will inevitably experience climate injustice. In that spirit, countries must commit to localizing their efforts in climate-affected countries and communities, engaging girls in particular in the design, monitoring and implementation of any new initiative.

A rising chorus of youth voices is growing across the front lines of climate change. They demand “#LossAndDamage finance — now!” write @InezaGrrace @LossDamageYouth & @AnjumSultana @PlanCanada #ClimateChange #COP27 #SharmElSheikh #YouthLeadership

Youth are calling for political leadership. We must heed their call — passing on the escalating impacts of human-induced climate change to future generations is a moral and leadership failure.

Climate finance is climate justice. It can only be achieved if we address loss and damage critically and systematically.

Ineza Umuhoza Grace is a Rwanda-based youth researcher and advocate for climate action. She serves as co-ordinator of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition — a collaboration of young people from the Global South and Global North sharing stories and holding governments accountable for climate impacts. She also leads the Green Protector, whose mission is to increase active youth participation in creating a better and protected environment.

Anjum Sultana is director of youth leadership and policy advocacy at Plan International Canada. She is an award-winning public affairs strategist, sought-after media commentator, accomplished public speaker, and published researcher with expertise in gender equality, public health and civic engagement. In 2020, Anjum was named a Global Woman of Distinction by the NGO Committee on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and one of Canada’s Top 30 Under 30 in Sustainability by Corporate Knights.