The importance of carbon (C)–nutrient interactions to the prediction of future C uptake has long been recognized. The Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) land model (ELM) version 1 is one of the few land surface models that include both N and P cycling and limitation (ELMv1-CNP). Here we provide a global-scale evaluation of ELMv1-CNP using the International Land Model Benchmarking (ILAMB) system. We show that ELMv1-CNP produces realistic estimates of present-day carbon pools and fluxes. Compared to simulations with optimal P availability, simulations with ELMv1-CNP produce better performance, particularly for simulated biomass, leaf area index (LAI), and global net C balance. We also show ELMv1-CNP-simulated N and P cycling is in good agreement with data-driven estimates. We compared the ELMv1-CNP-simulated response to CO2 enrichment with meta-analysis of observations from similar manipulation experiments. We show that ELMv1-CNP is able to capture the field-observed responses for photosynthesis, growth, and LAI. We investigated the role of P limitation in the historical balance and show that global C sources and sinks are significantly affected by P limitation, as the historical CO2 fertilization effect was reduced by 20 % and C emission due to land use and land cover change was 11 % lower when P limitation was considered. Our simulations suggest that the introduction of P cycle dynamics and C–N–P coupling will likely have substantial consequences for projections of future C uptake.