To achieve the Paris Agreement requires aggressive mitigation strategies alongside negative emission technologies. Recent studies suggest that increasing tree cover can make a substantial contribution to negative emissions, with the tropics being the most suitable region from a biogeophysical perspective. Yet these studies typically do not account for subsequent carbon cycle and climate responses to large-scale land-use change. Here we quantify the maximum potential temperature and CO.sub.2 benefits from pantropical forest restoration, including the Earth system response, using a fully coupled, emission-driven Earth system model (HadGEM2-ES). We perform an idealised experiment where all land use in the tropics is stopped and vegetation is allowed to recover, on top of an aggressive mitigation scenario (RCP2.6). We find that tropical restoration of 1529 Mha increases carbon stored in live biomass by 130 Pg C by 2100 CE. Whilst avoiding deforestation and tropical restoration in the tropics removes 42 Pg C compared to RCP2.6, the subsequent reduction in extratropical and ocean carbon uptake means that carbon in the atmosphere only reduces by 18 Pg C by 2100. The resulting small CO.sub.2 (9 ppm) benefit does not translate to a detectable reduction in global surface air temperature compared to the control experiment. The greatest carbon benefit is achieved 30-50 years after restoration before the Earth system response adjusts to the new land-use regime and declining fossil fuel use. Comparing our results with previous modelling studies, we identify two model-independent key points: (i) in a world where emission reductions follow the Paris Agreement, restoration is best deployed immediately, and (ii) the global carbon cycle response to reduced emissions limits the efficacy of negative emissions technologies by more than half. We conclude that forest restoration can reduce peak CO.sub.2 mid-century, but it can only modestly contribute to negative emissions.