UN Environment teams up with Theresa May, scouts and guides to beat plastic pollution

Theresa May in Kenya
Theresa May and Erik Solheim launch Plastic Challenge Badge with Kenya Girl Guides and Kenya Scouts to inspire young people to become leaders in the fight against single-use plastic. Photo: UN Environment

With more than 150 Scouts and Guides on hand, UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday announced the British government’s commitment with UN Environment to inspire young people to become leaders in the fight against single-use plastic.

May joined Head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, on the campus of the United Nations offices in Nairobi to announce the launch of a new Plastic Challenge Badge for Girl Guides and Scouts.

Through yesterday’s pilot launch in Kenya – home to over 1.5 million Scouts and Guides– the initiative will promote education and action through the type of hands-on environmental stewardship for which the Scouts and Guides are famous.

The Badge curriculum will first target schools and youth groups in Kenya, helping an estimated 50,000 young people to better understand the importance of reducing plastic consumption and kick-start behavior change.

Theresa May in Kenya
Theresa May meets some Kenyan Girl Guides and Scouts during her visit to the country. Photo: Twitter/ErikSolheim

In the UK, the government is providing $50,000 in initial funding for the project and will support an exchange programme to connect Scouts and Guides from the UK and Kenya with a focus on catalyzing a youth-led global effort to beat plastic pollution. The UK Government will also fund the creation of a resource pack which will support UK Scouts to take greater action on plastic pollution.

In the months to come, UN Environment, the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) will continue to empower millions of young people on plastic pollution. World Scouting, with 50 million members across the world, and UN Environment in February renewed their global partnership for the environment.

Speaking to Scouts and Guides on hand to participate in a design challenge for the badge, UN Environment’s Executive Director summed up the stakes.

“The environment has already paid a heavy price for our addiction to single-use plastics. We simply can’t allow that cost to extend to the next generation,” said Solheim.

“That’s why this support from the UK government to create and launch a plastic pollution badge with the Guides and Scouts is such an inspiring step in the right direction. This global partnership allows us to not just fight plastic pollution on the beaches, but to invest in the young minds that will preserve the planet for future generations to come.”

Symbolic of to the UK’s global leadership in the fight against single-use plastic pollution, May paid the visit amid a packed diplomatic schedule which featured visits to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. She is the first Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher to visit UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi.

Developed as part of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Youth and United Nations Global Alliance, UN agencies, civil society and other organizations, Challenge Badges aim to raise young people’s awareness, educate and motivate them to change behavior and help them become an active agent of change in their local community. The series can be used by teachers in school classes as well as by youth leaders, especially those in Guide or Scout groups.

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