Forest carbon use efficiency (CUE, the ratio of net to gross primary productivity) represents the fraction of photosynthesis that is not used for plant respiration. Although important, it is often neglected in climate change impact analyses. Here we assess the potential impact of thinning on projected carbon cycle dynamics and implications for forest CUE and its components (i.e., gross and net primary productivity and plant respiration), as well as on forest biomass production. Using a detailed process‐based forest ecosystem model forced by climate outputs of five Earth System Models under four representative climate scenarios, we investigate the sensitivity of the projected future changes in the autotrophic carbon budget of three representative European forests. We focus on changes in CUE and carbon stocks as a result of warming, rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, and forest thinning. Results show that autotrophic carbon sequestration decreases with forest development, and the decrease is faster with warming and in unthinned forests. This suggests that the combined impacts of climate change and changing CO2 concentrations lead the forests to grow faster, mature earlier, and also die younger. In addition, we show that under future climate conditions, forest thinning could mitigate the decrease in CUE, increase carbon allocation into more recalcitrant woody pools, and reduce physiological‐climate‐induced mortality risks. Altogether, our results show that thinning can improve the efficacy of forest‐based mitigation strategies and should be carefully considered within a portfolio of mitigation options.