Environmental problems were not among the core issues for the United Nations at its creation in 1945. In the 1970s, however, they created a crescendo of public concern as the threats posed by toxic chemicals, large-scale destruction of natural ecosystems, and the loss of species became visible and were obviously linked to human activity. Pollution, it was clear, did not stop at national borders and solutions required common effort. As part of the special issue on “The United Nations at Seventy-Five: Looking Back to Look Forward,” this essay explores how, as the only institution equipped to identify global problems and generate collective action toward their resolution, the UN became the platform for creating multilateral environmental agreements, convening global conferences, and mobilizing national and international effort through a progressively larger number of institutions at the national and international level to guide decisions and influence behavior. We have moved the environmental needle in terms of information, institutions, and awareness. Yet, many environmental problems persist, some are getting worse, and new challenges and, indeed, crises are emerging.