Daylight savings time could soon be a thing of the past in the European Union (EU). An international survey found a large majority of EU citizens are in favor of nixing the bi-annual ritual meant to take advantage of daylight as the seasons change.
The continent-wide survey found 84 percent of some 4.6 million respondents are against changing their clocks in the spring and summer months. This has prompted the European Commission to reconsider a directive that makes member states change their clocks forward on the last Sunday of March and set it back on the last Sunday of October.
Daylight savings all started during the height of the First World War, when the German Empire set its time forward by an hour to conserve energy and take advantage of longer days. In the decades following, countries wavered on implementing it. However, following the 1970s oil crisis, Member States were required to adopt the time changes. Today, the continent is split up into three different time zones: Western or Greenwich, Central, and Eastern.
In its consultation, the Commission notes that "at this juncture, evidence is only conclusive on one point: that allowing uncoordinated time changes between Member States" makes trade across borders more costly and inconvenient.
Overall, energy savings from daylight savings is marginal and varies depending on geographic location. Northern EU states, for example, have darker winters and brighter summers with short nights, while the southernmost parts barely experience daylight changes between the seasons.
“The commission regularly receives feedback from citizens on the summertime issue, which often refers to what they perceive as negative health impacts of the disruptive time change relating to sleep deprivation and other kinds of negative consequences,” wrote the commission. “However, some also ask that the current system be maintained, as they believe it has positive effects.”
Studies on the health implications of changing the time each year are mainly inconclusive and have found both positive and negative effects. Further, technological advances such as artificial lighting and automated systems have made the agricultural benefits of daylight savings time obsolete.
The change needs approval from national governments and the European Parliament to become law, after which point each country will be able to decide whether they want to stay in summer or winter time.