In 2001, the Japanese government committed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change against industry pressures and in spite of the US decision to withdraw from the agreement. This commitment was crucial for the survival of the protocol. Japan has subsequently introduced substantial—yet, mostly voluntary—measures. To explain the puzzle of Japan's ratification, this article builds upon the agenda-setting literature and advances the concept of embedded symbolism. During the 1990s, political leaders elevated climate change and the Kyoto Protocol to the level of a national symbol. Thus, although in 2001 successful implementation of the Kyoto target looked extremely difficult and industry opposition was strong, the symbolism of Kyoto backed by strong public support tipped the balance in favor of ratification.

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