This study investigates the key drivers affecting emission increases in terms of population growth, economic growth, industrial transformation, and energy use in six Chinese megacities: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. The six cities represent the most-developed regions in China and they have similar per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as many developed countries. There is an urgent need to quantify the magnitude of each factor in driving the emissions changes in those cities so that a potential bottom-up climate mitigation policy design at the city and sectoral levels can be initiated. We adopt index decomposition analysis and present the results in both additive and multiplicative approaches to reveal the absolute and relative levels of each factor in driving emission changes during 1985–2007. Among all cities, economic effect and energy intensity effect have always been the two dominant factors contributing to the changes in carbon emissions. This study reveals that there are large variations in the ways driving forces contribute to emission levels in different cities and industrial sectors.