The current methods used for the production of activated carbon (AC) are often chemical and energy intensive and produce significant amount of chemical waste. Thus, clean production of AC is important to reduce its overall production cost and to limit the adverse effect on the environment. Therefore, the main aim of this study is to develop a clean method for AC production from woody biomass with low chemical consumption. Herein, this study reports a facile strategy for reducing chemical usages in the production of high-performance AC, by introducing a crucial pre-pyrolysis step before chemical activation of biomass. The ACs prepared were characterised using scanning electron microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas adsorption measurements. All these characterisations indicated that produced ACs have similar physicochemical properties. The strategy reduced chemical use by 70% and produced high-performance ultra-microporous ACs with excellent carbon dioxide adsorption capacity (4.22–5.44 mmol m −2 ). The facile pre-pyrolysis method is recommended for further research as a cleaner activated carbon preparation method from biomass feedstock.