Should we keep changing clocks twice a year?
The European Commission has proposed ending the custom of changing clocks twice a year, as has happened in every European country since 1998.
The project is being negotiated and still has to get approval from the European Council and Parliament before each country decides if it wants a constant winter or summer time for 2021.
The first time France changed its clocks was in 1916. An hour was added in the summer to save energy.
During World War Two, another hour was added to be on the same time as Germany but in 1945 France returned to GMT+1. In 1976, after the oil shock, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing chose to add an hour during summer to save energy again.
In a consultation in February, more than half (55%) of French people voted for summer time. Portugal and Poland also want to keep summer time, but Denmark and Finland prefer winter time.
We spoke to two people involved in the debate.
Karima Delli, Member of the European Parliament (Europe Ecology Party)
Changing clocks twice a year is not good for our health.
It’s the transition that is the problem. Our biological clock is disrupted and it leads to sleep issues and insomnia, which have a direct effect on our health.
Children and older people are the worst affected by these problems.
The second important point against changing time is road safety.
Sleep deprivation and the lack of light are a problem. There is a 40% rise in accidents every winter.
Changing the clocks is also a problem for farmers and livestock.
Dairy cows are more stressed when the time changes because their internal clock is disturbed. They do not produce milk for a few days as a result.
Studies have shown that changing clocks influences emotions. We feel more tired and can be more aggressive.
We used to change the clocks to save energy but the results are not satisfying. Studies from the European Parliament have shown that the savings are between 0.5% and 2.5% each year. That is nothing for 500 million Europeans.
There is also a democratic argument for ending the custom. European citizens have been petitioning for years and finally we are listening to them.
The EU wants to harmonise the time change but countries have to decide between summer time and winter time.
Several things have to be taken into account, such as cross-border workers, transports and logistics.
It would be complicated to end up in a different time zone to Belgium or Germany.
A lot of people like summer time because the days are longer, but summer time puts us even further away from our biological clock.
The closest time to our biological clock is winter (GMT+1), though both have advantages and disadvantages.
We can’t go back to GMT if we want to stay in harmony with European countries. It is important to look at the choices of our neighbours as the standardisation should work by groups.
If France, Italy, Spain and Germany stay at the same time, it will not pose a problem.
Laetitia Moreau-Gabarain, president of the Association Contre l’Heure d’Eté Double (ACHED)
Last year, the crazy idea of always being on summer time emerged. We are totally against being two hours ahead as it means being two hours ahead of the sun.
There are several problems with GMT+2. First, it is bad for the health. It has consequences for obesity and serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.
It is also bad for sleep. But the problem doesn’t just come from being one or two hours ahead.
It is also due to the changing clocks. For example, there is a rise in heart attacks in spring when we change time.
People in general like the idea of summer time, so when the authorities poll them on what time to go for, it is like asking them to choose between spinach and ice-cream.
People are not informed enough. It is easy to choose summer time when we think about long nights out and summer hobbies. Summer activities, and thinking about spending the night on a cafe terrace... it’s playing on the emotions and the habits of people.
They do not see the real issue about being two hours ahead.
We are told that it was done to save energy but summer time does not help. Maybe in the beginning it was useful, but today it is not just about lights.
For example, using air conditioning or a heater consumes a lot of energy.
A study from the 1990s showed that we tend to use our cars more in the summer because of our different activities.