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A French court has ordered the government to compensate for its failure to meet its own greenhouse gas reduction targets, saying it must “fix” the emissions overruns.

Four NGOs supported by a petition signed by 2.3 million people sued the French state in 2019 in what they called “the case of the century”, asking judges to rule on the alleged shortcomings of the government on climate targets between 2015 and 2018.

The Paris administrative court estimated Thursday that France had emitted 15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent beyond its objectives over this period.

He ordered Prime Minister Jean Castex and his government to take action “to repair the damage” caused by non-payment of excess emissions.

The court set December 31, 2022 as the deadline to put things back in place, leaving the government the means to do so.

The court had already accepted the reasoning of the plaintiffs in February, ruling that France had not respected its own “carbon budget” based on the UN climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015.

But on Thursday he added a provision that failure to meet the deadline would result in penalties of € 78million (£ 66million) every six months until the target is fully met.

“We won,” tweeted Cécile Duflot, former government minister and now head of Oxfam France, and Jean-François Julliard, director of Greenpeace France.

“The government is now forced to keep France’s climate promises,” said Notre Affaire à Tous, a third plaintiff who fights environmental violations through legal action.

The fourth plaintiff, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, created by the former Minister of the Environment of President Emmanuel Macron, declared: “France has been condemned to repair the consequences of its climate inaction.

This decision is the latest in a series of court rulings putting pressure on France to meet its own environmental goals.

In July, France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, ordered the government to take measures by March 31, 2022 to honor its commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

France is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, a binding treaty, called for limiting global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, and “preferably” to 1.5C. Based on the progress made so far, experts say the world is currently unlikely to meet either of these goals, heading towards close to 3C instead.