Resilience, Peace and Security

Weekend reads: Red Sea crisis curbs slow steaming, cities take on air pollution, boosting financial services and more

'Slow steaming' may be coming to an end. Image: Gary Walker-Jones on Unsplash

Spencer Feingold
Digital Editor, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum
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  • This weekly roundup brings you top reads for the weekend from Agenda.
  • Take this: 'Slow steaming' can reduce shipping emissions significantly. Have the Red Sea attacks ended the practice?
  • And in the numbers: There are currently 114 million refugees and displaced people around the world. That number could double in the next decade, UNCHR warns.

Look beyond the headlines for these thoughtful expert insights and one-of-a-kind features that put the world's biggest changes into fresh context.

This week: 'slow steaming' may be coming to an end as cargo ships take longer routes to avoid conflicts; cites employ innovative strategies to curb air pollution; organizations boost efforts to bring financial services to rural areas; and UNHCR warns that the global population of refugees could double in the next decade.

The take:

The end of 'slow-steaming'? — Emissions from container ships transporting goods from Asia to Europe could increase substantially in light of the Red Sea conflict. This is because shipping lines are rerouting their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope instead of using the Suez Canal.

To make up for the extra distance, ships are increasing their cruising speed, putting an end to nearly a decade of “slow steaming” – a strategy employed to save on both fuel costs and lower CO2 emissions. As as result, shipping analysts Sea-Intelligence predicts an increase in CO2 emissions of between 31% and 66% for journeys from Asia to northern Europe or the Mediterranean.

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The shift:

Curbing air pollution — Air pollution is a deadly killer, especially in urban areas.

Cities worldwide, however, are increasingly taking action to counter air pollution. Dozens of cities in the C40 Network have committed to launching innovative strategies to clean their air and protect the wellbeing of residents.

Initiatives include waste-reduction plans, bolstering green public transport, vehicle-access restrictions and mitigation of on-site emissions from buildings, to name a few.

The opportunity:

Financial services — The climate crisis is having a disproportionate effect on the livelihoods of rural women who rely on agriculture as a source of income. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, a 1°C increase in long-term average temperatures could lead to a 34% drop in the income of households run by women, relative to male-headed households.

Increasing access to financial services can significantly help women-run households, experts say. Mary Ellen Iskenderian, the President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, told the Forum that women "need a safe place to save their money. They need to be able to make and receive payments conveniently, and not too expensively. And, yes, they need access to credit."

The stat:

114 million — That is the number of refugees and displaced people around the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In a recent interview on Radio Davos, the head of the UN agency, Filippo Grandi, warned that the number could double in a decade if the world cannot find ways to stop war and mitigate global fragmentation. The Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 also found that involuntary migration would be an increasing risk over the next 10 years.

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