Ocean health and climate change are inextricably linked: as CO2 becomes more concentrated in the atmosphere, it also builds up in the seas. Data suggest that the oceans absorb up to 30% of annual carbon dioxide emissions, resulting in a decrease in the pH value of the oceans—a phenomenon known as “ocean acidification”. If left unchecked, this will have disastrous effects on the well-being of the marine ecosystem, coastal industries, and human communities and livelihoods. The consequences will be both ecological and economic.

Ocean acidification

February 2nd 2023

2 – 5pm JST

Hybrid event
In-person (Tokyo, Japan)

Join us as we explore what ocean acidification is, what we can do to avoid its worst impacts, and how governments, business leaders and scientists can co-operate to better respond to this existential threat within Japan and around the globe.

Event Schedule

2 – 2:15 pm JST
Opening remarks | Welcome address

2:15 – 2:30 pm JST
Film screening (15 minutes) | The threat bubbling up

As carbon emissions change the chemistry of the seas, ocean acidification threatens marine life and human livelihoods. How worried should you be about climate change’s so-called “evil twin”?

2:35 – 3:30 pm JST
Panel: pH 7: de-acidifying our oceans

The oceans absorb up to 30% of annual carbon dioxide emissions. While this does help in mitigating some of the effects of climate change, it also results in a decrease in the pH value of the oceans. Data from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs suggests that the past 20–30 years have seen a rapid increase in ocean acidification, and the rate is expected to increase further. According to BIOACID, a German research network, the Arctic is expected to experience the worst of this worrying transformation because of its low temperatures. This poses significant threats to the marine ecosystem—from dissolving animal shells to degrading coral—and the human communities that depend on ocean ecosystems.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14, Target 14.3, calls for minimising and addressing the impacts of ocean acidification through co-operation at all levels. There is an urgent need for scientific communities to come together with the media, education systems, policymakers and civil society to help bring more attention to the issue and to come up with technological solutions and robust legislation.

This expert panel will discuss the current state of ocean acidification, spell out what’s at stake for the marine ecosystem and the communities on land that depend on it, and address the challenges that we face in bringing this issue to the fore of the global agenda.

3:30 – 3:50 pm JST
Intermission (20 minutes)

3:50 – 4:50 pm JST
Panel: Mitigating ocean acidification along the coastlines of Japan

Much of the socio-economic life of Japan depends on the well-being of the ocean and marine ecosystems that surround the islands, with fishery and aquaculture production industries contributing significantly to its economy. However ocean acidification poses an alarming threat to these industries.

According to a survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an American scientific and regulatory agency, the acidification in the oceans is expected to increase by 150% by the end of this century. A decade-old Oceana study placed Japan as one of the most vulnerable nations to ocean acidification, alongside other developed countries. The adverse effects have already started to show. A coastal zone survey conducted at three sites, Miyagi, Okayama, and Hiroshima prefectures since 2020 (by the Nippon Foundation) has observed a rise in the ocean acidification values at a level that could affect oysters.

Mitigating this issue will require resilient collaboration among public, private and civil society sectors. How can Japan’s ocean policy help tackle this issue? How can gaps in legislation be filled and made more robust, taking inspiration from Western counterparts? What countries can Japan learn from? How can the government properly utilise Japan’s innovative private sector and world-leading technology powerhouses? What more can be done to drive further research and development to combat the rising acidification of Japan’s coastline?

This expert panel will deep-dive into the issue of ocean acidification in Japan and provide actionable insights and policy recommendations to save our oceans and help create a sustainable future.

4:50 – 5:10 pm JST

5:10 – 5:20 pm JST
Closing remarks and event end


Steve Widdicombe

Steve Widdicombe
Director of science, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Steve Widdicombe is a marine ecologist with over 30 years of experience in using field observations and large manipulative experiments to address issues relating to benthic ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function. Professor Widdicombe started his research career looking at the impacts of natural disturbance (bioturbation) on marine biodiversity and community structure, and he has continued this research theme ever since. In addition, much of his recent research has concentrated on the impacts of human-induced stressors, such as climate change, ocean acidification and artificial light, on marine organisms and ecosystems. He also has an active interest in monitoring and observing the marine environment and is the co-chair of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) executive council. He is also a co-lead on a programme endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability (OARS), and regularly contributes to high-level policy discussions (such as UNFCCC COP and the UN Ocean Conference I Dialogues). For ten years Professor Widdicombe was Plymouth Marine Laboratory’s head of science for marine ecology and biodiversity, before becoming director of science in 2019.

Peter Thomson

Peter Thomson
United Nations Secretary-general’s Special Envoy for the Ocean

Peter Thomson has served as the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for the ocean since 2017; in this role he is driving the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the resources of the ocean. Ambassador Thomson was elected to serve as president of the UN General Assembly for its 2016–17 term. He was Fiji’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 2010 to 2016, during which time he was president of the executive board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). He led the Fiji team of diplomats that in 2013 chaired the Group of 77 and China, the UN’s largest negotiating group, comprising 133 developing countries. He was elected president of the International Seabed Authority’s assembly in 2011 and president of its council in 2015. Ambassador Thomson is a founding co-chair of the Friends of Ocean Action and is a supporting member of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.

Malaika Vaz

Malaika Vaz
Explorer, National Geographic, and Founder, Untamed Planet

Malaika Vaz is a National Geographic explorer, TV presenter and filmmaker from India. Since founding India- and New York City–based production company Untamed Planet in 2017, Ms Vaz has been directing, producing and hosting award-winning documentaries and television series for media networks like National Geographic, Al Jazeera, Discovery Channel and the BBC. Her recent films have documented illegal trafficking syndicates, endangered species conservation and the human–wildlife interface in remote regions across the globe. Ms Vaz is passionate about translating films to tangible impact at the grassroots and policy levels and partners with global conservation organisations to communicate their work.

Yohei Sasakawa

Yohei Sasakawa
Chairman, The Nippon Foundation

After 20 years in the business sector, Yohei Sasakawa joined The Nippon Foundation in 1981. Known for his entrepreneurial spirit, Mr Sasakawa convenes political, governmental, academic and private sectors to address the most pressing issues facing humankind. His long-standing concern for ocean health has led to the creation of various initiatives, including fellowship programmes, which have nurtured more than 1,600 ocean experts, programmes to enhance maritime security in three countries of the Micronesian region, and global networks of researchers who are striving to achieve sustainable and equitable ocean governance.

Masahiko Fujii

Masahiko Fujii
Associate professor, Faculty of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Japan

Masahiko Fujii is an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Japan. His educational and research activities focus on sustainable use of the marine ecosystem and mitigating the impacts of climate change on the marine ecosystem, especially by enhancing renewable energy in society. He has engaged in future projection of coastal ecosystems such as coral and seaweed in response to ocean warming, acidification and deoxygenation. He has also been focusing on long-term monitoring of biogeochemical properties in the subarctic coasts in Japan. His recent interest also extends to ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) in coastal regions by fostering mangroves, coral reefs and seaweed.

Tomoyuki Yamamoto

Tomoyuki Yamamoto
Science journalist, Asahi Shimbun

Tomoyuki Yamamoto is a science journalist and reporter for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. He has covered the ocean, including diving in the Antarctic Ocean and reporting on the Galapagos Islands in South America. He has served as deputy chief of the Asahi Shimbun’s science and medical department and as a member of the Asahi Gakusei Shimbun’s editorial board. He also gives lectures on marine life and the environment. His latest book is What Will Happen to Japan’s Oceans Due to Global Warming? The Changing Marine Ecosystem Below the Water’s Surface (Kodansha Blue Backs).

Tsuneo Ono

Tsuneo Ono
Chief scientist of marine environment division, Fisheries Resources Institute, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency

Tsuneo Ono is chief scientist of the marine environment division at the Fisheries Resources Institute in the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency. He also serves as co-chair of the section for carbon and climate at the North Pacific Marine Science Organisation (PICES). Previously, Mr Ono worked with the Frontier Research System for Global Change as a research scientist.

He has a PhD in fisheries sciences. His research interests are in the areas of temporal variation of the physical and chemical ocean environment; response of oceanic lower trophic ecosystems to ocean environmental changes; and carbon and nutrient cycles in the North Pacific, including coastal areas.

Keiji Washio

Keiji Washio
Former president, Japan Fisheries University, and chairman, Japanese Traditional Foods Research Association

Keiji Washio has served as chairman of the Japanese Traditional Foods Research Association since 2014. In 2022, he also assumed the role of vice chairman of the Satoumi Development Research Council. After studying fisheries science at the Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, and traveling to various fishing villages, Mr Washio worked for the Hayashizaki Fishery Co-operative Association in Akashi City (1983–2000). He was a professor in the department of environmental sociology at Kyoto Seika University (2000–09) and president of Japan Fisheries University (2009–20). He has also served as counsellor of the Headquarters for Ocean Policy, Cabinet Office (2014–20). He is the author of Akashi Kaikyo Fish Landscape (1989) and The Illustrated Book of Fishes (1993).

Lord Paul Deighton

Lord Paul Deighton
Non-executive chair, The Economist Group

Lord Paul Deighton was appointed as a non-executive director of The Economist Group in February 2018 and non-executive chairman in July 2018. He is also the non-executive chairman of Heathrow Airport and Hakluyt and serves on the board of Square, Inc. He is the chairman of the audit and finance commission of the International Association of Athletics Federations. Previously he was a partner at Goldman Sachs, chief executive of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and a member of the board of the organising committee for the Rugby World Cup in 2015. He also served the UK government as a treasury minister in the House of Lords.


Charles Goddard

Charles Goddard (moderator)
Editorial director, Asia-Pacific, Economist Impact

Charles Goddard imagines and builds the Group’s flagship initiatives, the purpose of which is to catalyse progress on key issues of the day. He works closely with partners on themes ranging from ageing and longevity to ocean health, focusing particularly on healthcare, the Anthropocene and the blue economy. Based in Hong Kong, Charles was previously editorial director, Asia, at the Economist Intelligence Unit, director of research in Asia, and managing director of the Economist Corporate Network, a peer network for senior executives. He is concurrently executive director of the Group’s World Ocean Initiative.

Naka Kondo

Naka Kondo (moderator)
Manager, policy and insights, Japan, Economist Impact

Naka Kondo is an editorial manager of the policy and insights team at Economist Impact, based in Tokyo. She is the lead editor for Back to Blue, and leads research programs for corporates, foundations, governments seeking evidence-based analysis and pertinent insights to bring real-world impact. Naka holds degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science (BSc) and the University of Tokyo (BA).

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