Summary Brazilian greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are projected to reach 3.2 gigatonnes (CO2 eq.) by 2020. The government has made a voluntary commitment to reduce this figure by 40 per cent. A reduction in deforestation and livestock mitigation measures are key components of this commitment. Focusing on the Cerrado core (central Brazilian Savannah), we analyse abatement potential and cost-effectiveness of GHG mitigation measures applicable to livestock production. We focus on the role of intensification measures, particularly pasture restoration and animal performance to meet the objectives of increasing beef production to meet higher demand, while simultaneously reducing emissions. We use a linear programming model that optimises pasture intensification levels according to biophysical and economic parameters and growth in beef demand. We estimate changes in soil carbon stocks generated by pasture management and land use change. According to a baseline projection, beef production in the Cerrado accounts for an average of approximately 122 million tonnes of CO2 eq. per year from 2010 to 2030. The results of our analysis suggest that by implementing cost-effective measures, projected emissions in the region could be reduced by around 24 per cent. Pasture restoration, which will reduce deforestation, is the largest contributor to these results.