A major cornerstone on the way to low-carbon sustainable development on a global scale will be a swift and effective implementation of all countries' INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC prior to Paris. However, doing so will require transforming development pathways away from currently pervasive carbon lock- ins. This can only be successful if countries take a systemic view on their development agendas, and link mitigation, adaptation and other developmental priorities together for a coherent overarching sustainable development strategy. The ownership for this process needs to be with the countries themselves as such strategies touch fundamentally upon national policy-making and implementation. At the same time, developing countries have access to bi- and multilateral financial and technical cooperation. To enable a systemic, country-led perspective, development cooperation needs to shift its paradigms away from currently prevalent project-level interventions. A truly innovative and transformational shift with the objective of pursuing a low-carbon and climate resilient society needs to open up space for experimentation as new ways of doing things need to be put into practice. Experiments will not always be successful, but foster learning on a national as well as an international level on pitfalls and solutions in new approaches to low-carbon sustainable development. Not least, there needs to be a renewed focus on programmatic approaches that link various topical domains for a country-led process, and a critical look at development work that is "doomed to succeed". Our article draws from systems theory, development studies and recent work on transitions studies and transformational change in the international domain. It links up different theoretical concepts with practical approaches in order to outline a future development agenda that will be owned by developing countries and supported non-invasively by bi- and multilateral development cooperation to foster low-carbon development pathways that are urgently needed to solve the climate crisis.