We conducted a systematic literature search and meta-analysis of studies with side-by-side life cycle analysis comparisons of mid-rise buildings using mass timber and conventional, concrete and steel, building materials. Based on 18 comparisons across four continents, we found that substituting conventional building materials for mass timber reduces construction phase emissions by 69%, an average reduction of 216 kgCO2e/m2 of floor area. Studies included in our analysis were unanimous in showing emissions reductions when building with mass timber compared to conventional materials. Scaling-up low-carbon construction, assuming mass timber is substituted for conventional building materials in half of expected new urban construction, could provide as much as 9% of global emissions reduction needed to meet 2030 targets for keeping global warming below 1.5 °C. Realizing the climate mitigation potential of mass timber building could be accelerated by policy and private investment. Policy actions such as changing building codes, including mass timber in carbon offset crediting programs and setting building-sector-specific emissions reduction goals will remove barriers to and incentivize the adoption of mass timber. Private capital, as debt or equity investment, is poised to play a crucial role in financing mass timber building.