Pt supported on KOH-activated mesoporous carbon (K-AMC) was used to catalyze glycerol oxidation under base-free conditions at room temperature. To study the relationship between the carbon surface chemistry and the catalytic performance of the K-AMC-based Pt catalysts, different levels of surface oxygen functional groups (SOFGs) on the AMC supports were induced by thermal treatment at different temperatures under inert or H2 gas. A strong effect of the surface chemistry was observed on AMC-supported Pt catalysts for glycerol oxidation. The presence of carboxylic acid groups impedes the adsorption of glycerol, which leads to the reduction of catalytic activity, whereas the presence of high-desorption-temperature SOFGs, such as phenol, ether, and carbonyl/quinone groups, provide hydrophilicity to the carbon surface that improves the adsorption of glycerol molecules on Pt metal surface, which is beneficial for the catalytic activity. © 2016 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.