Ethylene-responsive factor (ERF) family is one of the largest families of plant-specific transcription factor that can positively or negatively regulate abiotic stress tolerance. However, their functions in regulating abiotic stress tolerance are still not fully understood. In this study, we characterized the functions of an ERF gene from Tamarix hispida, ThERF1, which can negatively regulate abiotic stress tolerance. The expression of ThERF1 was induced by salinity, PEG-simulated drought and abscisic acid (ABA) treatments. ThERF1 can specifically bind to GCC-box and DRE motifs. Overexpression of ThERF1 in transgenic Arabidopsis plants showed inhibited seed germination, and decreased fresh weight gain and root growth compared with wild-type (WT) plants. In addition, the transcript levels of several superoxide dismutase (SOD) and peroxidase (POD) genes in transgenic plants were significantly inhibited compared with in WT plants, resulting in decreased SOD and POD activities in transgenic plants under salt and drought stress conditions. Furthermore, the reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, malondialdehyde (MDA) contents and cell membrane damage in ThERF1-transformed plants were all highly increased relative to WT plants. Our results suggest that ThERF1 negatively regulates abiotic stress tolerance by strongly inhibiting the expression of SOD and POD genes, leading to decreased ROS-scavenging ability.