Permanent summer or permanent winter?

The question isn’t as sinister as it may initially sound, but it is one that EU counties – and possibly the UK – will need to start considering in the not-so-distant future.

Last March, right around the time of lockdown for many countries, the European parliament voted to ditch daylight saving time from 2021. To no-one’s surprise, this received a slew of criticism from Tory MEPs, with one in particular branding the European parliament as ‘Time Lords’. The parliament citied the outdated nature of the practice as their primary reason for abandonment, saying that in today’s world it is no longer necessary.

So, why dispose of daylight savings time?

Originally, the idea of daylight savings was conceived as a method of saving energy; Benjamin Franklin once referenced the idea in regards to saving on candle wastage. In today’s world, however, the amount of energy saved by longer evenings is negligible. Saving on an extra hour of lighting buildings won’t make a dent in the energy consumption of all the other gadgets we use all day long such as computers and heating/aircon.

Secondly – and in doing the research for this blog I am reminded of a book I once read, Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker – changes in our body clock, even by just one hour, can have effects on our health. The book talks about how the entire UK engages in a nationwide sleep experiment twice a year every year: daylight savings time. At the beginning, just after we lose an hour, heart attacks spike. Then, after we gain the hour back, heart attacks fall drop. Further to this, when we lose an hour, we see more car accidents, workplace injuries, and miscarriages.

Countries having sovereignty over their own time zone could create all manner of confusing situations. Mainly, two countries inhabiting the same time zone could suddenly be pushed am hour apart if they take the decision to choose differently between summer and winter time.

It will be interesting to see how Europe – and ultimately the UK – decides to align its time zones when the time for the change comes. If the UK does not decide to follow suit and continues using daylight savings time, this will lead to a rather awkward situation in Ireland, giving it a jump in time zone across the border. And although the decision has been pushed back by Covid, it will happen as some point in the near future.

Personally, though I am grateful for the brighter mornings, I would prefer longer evenings any day of the week. Darkness descending at 4:30pm can be quite sad sight.

It might be a slow process, but the end of daylight savings in Europe is still likely to happen – even if it is delayed by a year or two

By Rebecca Garland on 28/10/2020