In order to successfully mitigate or adapt to climate change we need reliable and standardised data. There has been a lack of data coordination at the global scale, which has led to some uncertainties. The 'Coordination action carbon observation system' (COCOS) project was funded by the EU to improve and expand on current global carbon cycle research. Project partners successfully established international partnerships and produced the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) carbon strategy report. The report now serves as the blueprint for global carbon observation, and its approach integrates data from land, sea and space. Moreover, COCOS established a coordinated database for all researchers working on the global carbon cycle, and it created regional-scale carbon budget maps. The project also supported several small workshops and a conference on global carbon cycle monitoring. Understanding the global carbon cycle and how it will affect us in the future relies heavily on accurate and well integrated data collection. COCOS has taken steps toward a broad, interconnected and robust observation network, that will allow for new insights into this important research area.