Queen's Lecture 2020 at TU Berlin

Dr Emily Shuckburgh of the University of Cambridge on managing climate change and the pandemic

The series of lectures started as a present of Great Britain towards the city of Berlin on the occasion of the visit of Queen Elisabeth II on 27th May 1965. This year, Dr. Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero, the University of Cambridge’s climate change initiative, and Reader in Environmental Data Science at the Department of Computer Science and Technology held the Queen's Lecture. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the lecture had to take place as a digital event - for the first time ever. Nevertheless, 1,500 people watched the livestreaming and took the chance to ask their questions about climate protection and a green future.

Message from HM Queen Elizabeth II. on occasion of the Queen’s Lecture 2020:

“This year’s Queen’s Lecture focuses on climate change and the goal of zero emissions. I am delighted that Dr Emily Shuckburgh will speak about the challenges this issue raises, and the opportunity for us to create a sustainable future for everyone. I congratulate the Technische Universität Berlin on its 2020 Queen’s Lecture and wish you all an enjoyable evening.”

Recording of the livestreaming event

notebook and headphones © Susanne Cholodnicki

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A blueprint for a green future

Today we sit at a pivotal moment in history. The toll that COVID-19 has wreaked on humanity is immense. But as we look to how the world can emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient, we must face head-on the triple challenge of responding to the threats posed by growing social inequality, the destruction of nature and climate change.

The current status is bleak. In a global population approaching 8 billion, the world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion, and inequalities have been exacerbated by COVID-19. It is thought that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction over the coming decades. And extreme weather related to climate change – including heatwaves, floods and wildfires – is destroying lives and livelihoods around the world.

But inequalities can be addressed to create a fairer and more just society; nature can be valued and supported so we leave it in an improved and resilient state for future generations; and the threat of climate change can be limited by rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and commitments to support adaptation. We can make this a story of hope and of opportunity. However, to realise these aspirations we need a coherent and effective plan based on our best evidence and knowledge. In this talk I will offer a blueprint for a green future. I will outline the economic case for an inclusive, green recovery from the pandemic and highlight the technological advances and nature-based solutions that can support a more sustainable and resilient future, together with the infrastructure and policies that can enable that.

This is the moment to reset our priorities, to re-evaluate our relationships with each other and with the world that sustains us, and to imagine and then realise a future that is, simply, better.

The lecturer

Dr Emily Shuckburgh is a mathematician and climate scientist. Emily is Director of Cambridge Zero, the University of Cambridge’s climate change initiative, and Reader in Environmental Data Science at the Department of Computer Science and Technology. She is also a Fellow of Darwin College, a Fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, an Associate Fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy and a Fellow of the British Antarctic Survey.

She leads the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training on the Application of AI to the study of Environmental Risks (AI4ER). 
In the past she has worked at École Normale Supérieure in Paris and at MIT. She is a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and co-chair of their Climate Science Communications Group. She has also acted as an advisor to the UK Government on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council.

In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to science and the public communication of science. She is co-author with HRH The Prince of Wales and Tony Juniper of the Ladybird Book on Climate Change.

Please find an exclusive interview with Emily Shuckburgh here.


The Queen's Lecture is supported by the British Embassy and the British Council Germany. It is part of the expanded program of the Science Week 2020.