Andras Krolopp taught us how TNC takes care of our world and how can we do our part.

During our last Meet the Community event we had the pleasure to introduce The Nature Conservancy to our colleagues, friends and coworkers. We have learned in that occasion what TNC is, its mission and its values, but few questions remain unanswered…till now.

We have asked Andras Krolopp, the Senior Policy Advisor here in Brussels, to reply to our queries and to teach us the 101 lessons to make the world we live in a better place.

Since 1951 The Nature Conservancy (formerly known as The Ecological Society of America) has been operating and spreading best practices and environmental awareness around the world, protecting land, water, air and even discovering new animal species!
Interest in environmental governance has become more and more resounding in recent years due to the light on global warming and CO2 issues, therefore, even TNC made already a lot of good efforts, the battle is no near to end.
In 2006 TNC launched its Africa program and in 2012 Andras Krolopp joined the team as Senior Policy Advisor in this Africa program. Later, he moved to TNC’s European Program where he is responsible for European governmental relations with a special focus on the EU institutions, Denmark, Finland and Sweden in support of TNC’s conservation and public funding priorities.
Let’s discover more about Andras and his job with TNC!

Starting from United States, to Europe, Asia and Africa, TNC covers programs all around the world. How can you manage with this immense biodiversity, how is TNC organised?

The Nature Conservancy is a single entity organized as a tax-exempt charitable organization. To achieve the Conservancy’s mission, the TNC Board of Directors has established chapters of The Nature Conservancy at the state and country level. Each state and country program is run by a director who manages the program’s annual plan and budget in support of the Conservancy’s mission and goals. State and county directors are managed through clear reporting channels back to the president and, through the president’s office, to the Board of Directors. All U.S. state and several country programs are advised and assisted by volunteer Boards of Trustees. The Boards of Trustees advise chapters on strategic issues, assist in setting goals and, importantly, subject the chapter’s work to additional critical thinking. Although the Nature Conservancy is decentralized with locations throughout the world, TNC’s Worldwide Office is based in Arlington, Virginia, TNC has a chapter office in every state in the U.S. and TNC has many focal conservation programs and priorities.

The Nature Conservancy’s charitable mission is “…to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends.” The Nature Conservancy takes a scientific approach to conservation, setting goals that describe the results it wants to achieve for biodiversity. The Nature Conservancy sets both long-term and near-term goals for conserving the abundance and geographic distribution of critical species and ecological systems. The organization’s overall goal is to ensure the long-term survival of all biodiversity on Earth. The Nature Conservancy works with all sectors of society including businesses, individuals, communities, partner organizations, and government agencies to achieve its goals. The Nature Conservancy is known for working effectively and collaboratively with traditional land owners such as farmers and ranchers, with whom it partners when such a partnership provides an opportunity to advance mutual goals. The Nature Conservancy is in the forefront of private conservation groups to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems and working to address the threats to biodiversity.


Let’s talk about Europe. Is the EU dedicated to fight on environment side? How did the European environmental policy change in the last few years?

I would comfortably say, that the EU (and its Member States) are doing quite a bit for preserving our natural heritage, within the EU, but also beyond. The existing “nature legislations” – Birds and Habitats Directives as well as other directives, such as the Water Framework Directive, but also the 7 th Environmental Action Program, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and many others are all pointing to the right direction. However, while the policies and the objectives are there, sometimes the implementation is lagging. Back in the years the EU had an ambitious target – halting (slowing down the rate) of biodiversity loss by 2010. We haven’t fully achieved this target, but significant progress was made. Since then, we are focusing increasingly on a more systematic approach, should it be moving somewhat away from pure species and area protection to saving whole ecosystem services and also making efforts to integrate nature and environment into other sectoral policies. Mainstreaming is the new buzz-word nowadays.


…And what more specifically are TNC’s goals here in Europe and in Belgium: do you aim to raise awareness or do you have more practical projects?

Europe is lucky to have a great number of amazing, well-functioning NGOs active in nature conservation. Also, general awareness about “green issues” is increasing. So, when TNC decided to be active in Europe, we set ourselves to do it in a complementary manner, in partnership with other organisations and institutions. We do believe that TNC has a unique skill-set, based on our over 50 years of practical work around the globe, what we can bring to Europe, to complement the ongoing efforts of others. We are very small here, compared to other similar organisations, therefore we can, and want to work in partnership with others.
There are some specific themes we would like to tackle, both on the policy and on the practical levels, like freshwater protection, moving towards system-scale planning for renewable energy production, setting up payment for ecosystem services schemes in watershed areas, enabling private land owners to play a more significant role in nature conservation, working on “green cities” and providing our science capacity to discussions related to climate change, and biodiversity.


What is your ambition for TNC, which legislation would you like to see approved and which practice implemented?

This is a bit of a tricky question. TNC as a non-advocacy type NGO, therefore we don’t work directly with legislative issues. However, we would like to offer our experiences stemming from tangible, on the ground projects and leveraging that on the ground experience with policy and decision makers, primarily for the topics above, covering freshwater protection, system scale planning, working with municipalities and implementing payment for ecosystem services. Working in partnership, we try to enable our partners and colleagues to use our scientific capabilities, our on the ground projects and our staff expertise and capacity and help them to advance policy and legislative recommendations for their work with EU institutions, European Parliament and Member States.


Can you share with us your hope for the future and which one is the concrete step that every one of us can make to improve the world we live in?

The world is realising now, that nature and biodiversity is fundamental to humanity’s existence and quality of life. However, saving, protecting, improving nature is a very complex job, and also very place based. Like reducing CO2 emission will have a global impact wherever it happens, biodiversity, nature should be protected and saved where it is.

There is a lot what we can do all individually, of course depending on our own personal circumstance, to protect nature. For example, we can let grow little butterflies or garden insect in the yard, leave old trees or other structures for insects to find home, plant indigenous trees, place some plants in our gardens, working with municipalities on these issues, and being aware of not exploiting any “biodiversity products”(ornaments made of sea shells, corals, wood, etc. or species, should it be dead or alive). On the policy level it is a lot more difficult to be active individually, but being aware of the current public discussions, should it be the pollinator crises, ivory trade or plastics is important. Supporting, helping organisations taking it up to the policy level is also very helpful. Last, but not least, European Parliament elections are coming up next year. Asking MEP candidates for their green agenda could also help moving the needle towards a greener, more bio-diverse future.

(This article originally appeared on Copernico Magazine)