EU takes another step toward ending seasonal time changes

European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to scrap the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour in spring and back again in the autumn in the bloc from April 2021, two years later than the EU executive initially proposed.

European Parliament voted 410-192 to end seasonal time shifts.

The vote is not the last word on the issue, but will form the basis of discussions with EU countries to produce a final law. The countries have yet to take a stance.

EU law has required all countries in the bloc to observe daylight saving time — moving clocks forward by an hour on the last Sunday of March and back by an hour on the final Sunday in October.

The practice of switching the clocks, also observed in countries such as the United States and Canada, was first introduced in World War One to save energy by prolonging evening daylight in summer.

In September, the European Commission proposed ending the practice after an EU-wide opinion survey showed a large majority in favour of doing so. The survey generated 4.6 million responses, with 84 per cent of respondents wanting to end seasonal clock changes.

Critics say the survey was dominated by Germans, who made up 70 per cent of the respondents.

A parliamentary report in favour of operating on a single time throughout the year said scientific studies link time changes to diseases of the cardiovascular or immune systems because they interrupt biological cycles and there were no longer any energy savings.

“New technology and different ways of living mean that we no longer earn anything [from time change], in fact we don’t save,” Marita Ulvskog, the lawmaker in charge of the time change file, told the EU Parliament during a debate Monday.

Britain not likely to change

If the commission’s original proposal had passed, the coming weekend would have been the last occasion to set clocks forward, with EU countries then deciding whether to stick to permanent summer time or switch back in October to permanent winter time.

Countries would not then be able to change their clocks forward and backward during the year, but would be free to decide which time zone they wanted to be in.

The EU will have 27 members once Britain leaves the bloc. The U.K. government has indicated it will stick to the current system after Brexit.

The seasonal time shift has also been the subject of debate in the United States, where legislators have tried unsuccessfully to abolish it. For now, Hawaii and most of Arizona do not follow the practice since the Second World War of adjusting clocks.

In Canada, daylight time is largely in place but there are exceptions. For instance, Saskatchewan remains on standard time all year. British Columbia is watching developments in the western U.S. closely as economic partners Washington, Oregon and California have all proposed eliminating seasonal time changes.

Russia decided in 2011 to switch to permanent summer time in an attempt to improve citizens’ well-being, but shifted to permanent winter time in 2014 after public complaints.

The majority of countries outside Europe and North America do not adjust their clocks.