© 2021, The Author(s).This paper assesses the feasibility of the 4 per 1000 initiative for agricultural soils in the tropics more specifically in Guadeloupe, as a representative case study of the Caribbean and other tropical regions. We used a locally adapted and calibrated model describing soil organic carbon dynamics under the impact of climate change and a broad range of scenarios combining increased use of organic amendments, reduced soil tillage, and increased land area for the local market. We found that, in its current state, only 26% of agricultural area could achieve a 4‰ year−1 increase in soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks in the coming 30 years, due mainly to perennial cropping systems (sugarcane, banana, orchards) occupying soils with the lowest SOC stocks. Implementing reduced tillage with increased use of locally produced composts would increase the agricultural area reaching the 4 per 1000 target to 31%. However, at territory scale, all scenarios tested showed an annual decrease in SOC stocks varying from − 0.1 to − 3.2‰. The limited area on which the 4 per 1000 target is feasible and generalized SOC losses were mainly linked to the current high SOC stocks in volcanic and calcareous soils on the island and lack of practices capable of further increasing C inputs in current cropping systems. We concluded that C sequestration potential in the Caribbean is rather limited and that increasing SOC stocks, even lower than 4 per 1000, should be the primary target in adaptation to climate change, by increasing the resilience of cropping systems based mainly on SOC-poor soils.