Daylight clock change this weekend could be last ever

The clock change to "winter hours" this year may be the last

This weekend - which saw the clocks “go back” to “winter time” today (Sunday October 28) - could be the last time the seasonal clock change takes place in France, as support grows in Europe against it.

The European Commission (EC) has recently been vocal in its wish to address - and possibly end - the clock change system, and in September, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed the idea to end the change definitively.

A European-wide public poll on the issue over the summer received 4.6 million responses, with results suggesting that 80% of respondents would be in favour of stopping the changing, and staying in “summer time” permanently.

Yet, any move would need to be voted in and adopted by the European Parliament and the EU Commission to come into force, and require support from the individual nations.

Each has until April 2019 to submit their choice on the matter, and also to decide whether they would prefer to be permanently in “winter time” or “summer time”.

Countries who wish to stay in “winter time” permanently will have one last chance to change their clocks in October 2019, after which any seasonal time changes will no longer be permitted.

France has not yet made a definite decision.

On Friday (October 26), François de Rugy, minister for Ecological Transition, said he would be “in favour” of reducing the gap between the clock and natural sunlight hours, and would therefore support France going into “winter time” permanently.

He said: “We must discuss the concrete effects it may have on everyday life and energy use.”

But another outspoken voice on the issue would support France staying in “summer time”.

Olivier Fabre, mayor of Mazamet in the Tarn (Occitanie), is founder of the group l’Association Européenne Pour l’Heure d'Été (European Association for Summer Time).

Mr Fabre believes that remaining in summer time would have positive environmental effects in terms of energy use and reducing greenhouse gases by 2030, and reduce danger on the roads.

He also said that people’s changing lifestyle habits - such as getting up later and going to bed later - would mean the “summer time” hours would be more conducive to everyday life.

He said: “If we have to only keep one hour, let’s make sure it is the summer one. We are seeing a move in lifestyle habits towards the evening; we start work later and social and family life takes place more in the evenings.

“If we were to stay in winter time, the east of France would have a bit of time to enjoy the sun and natural light until about 20h30 or 21h, but [in contrast] in August, night would fall at 20h, and you would have a very long wait before you could enjoy being outside again.”

He added: “Would we prefer to shut people away indoors because it is pitch black at 18h, or instead to encourage people to be outside in the garden, on restaurant terraces, or playing sports?”

“We know that the Toussaint [November 1] weekend is very dangerous on the roads. The most dangerous accidents tend to happen when people are returning from work [in the evenings]. So it would be much better to use this natural light at the end of the day, rather than at the beginning.”

Mr Fabre hit back at suggestions that agricultural workers and farmers would prefer to keep the clock-change system, or remain in “winter time” hours.

He said: “Farmers say that they are on ‘animal time’ anyway. It is always the animals that set the pace [regardless]. So no longer changing the clocks would work for them too, because they also have a social life.”

The clock change has been in effect in Europe since 1981.

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