Faced with the predicament of sustainable development in traditional cities, the low-carbon city, as a novel urban development mode, provides a feasible idea for resolving the tensions among urban development, resource conservation and environmental protection. Using prefecture-level panel data during 2007-2016, we adopt the difference-in-differences model to explore the impact of low-carbon city construction on green growth. Afterward, we estimate the heterogeneity of economic environmental effects on cities, and those effects are attributed to different scales and locations. The robustness tests reveal that low-carbon pilot cities significantly and continuously benefit in terms of the green total factor productivity through technical effects being partly transformed into green technical progress and structural effects. Additionally, the construction of low-carbon cities has scale economy and regional differences. Cities with larger scales, more complete infrastructure and better foundations for technology have more significantly positive effects on green growth. These findings also apply to cities in similar developing countries seeking to achieve economic transformation and green growth. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.