In order to obtain detailed city-level carbon emission data, this paper constructed a model to estimate the urban CO2 emissions in 2000, 2005 and 2013, using the combined data of DMSP/OLS nighttime light data and the provincial energy statistical yearbook data. It is found that there is a clearly linear correlation between the city nighttime light and the urban CO2 emissions. We then calculated and analyzed the growth of urban built-up areas and carbon emissions in the different time periods at both the national level and the four economic zones in China. It is shown that a good fitting relationship between them with the R2 at 0.6188 in 2000, 0.7132 in 2005 and 0.7195 in 2013. The growth rate of developed land area is 13.4% from 2000 to 2005 and 15.9% from 2005 to 2013. During the same period, the CO2 emissions were also increasing, at an average annual growth rate of 12.2% from 2000 to 2005 and 6.5% from 2005 to 2013. From the spatial point of view, carbon emissions are far greater in the eastern region of China than in western China. The city carbon emissions are the highest in major metropolitan cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The per capita carbon emissions are also higher in the east, which is consistent with the people's higher living standards. In some cities with large energy and heavy industry concentrations, especially in the northeastern and western regions, the growth rate of carbon emissions has risen faster than other cities.