One less hour of sleep, one more hour of daylight in the evening: France is switching to summer time this weekend, a change maintained despite the European Union’s proposal to put an end to it. At two o’clock in the morning on the night from Saturday to Sunday, the clocks will therefore advance by 60 minutes: it will be three o’clock and we will therefore be sleeping “one hour less”, provided you get up at the same time as usual. On the other hand, we will gain an hour of brightness at the end of the day.
Already used in the first half of the XXand century, the time change was reintroduced in France in 1976, in the wake of the oil shocks and justified by energy savings, an ever topical theme between the conflict in Ukraine and climate change. However, their importance is highly debated. The Environment and Energy Management Agency estimated them, in 2014, “real but modest”.
This change of time twice a year (changeover to winter time, the last Sunday in October, to summer time, the last Sunday in March) nevertheless remains highly contested for its effect on biological rhythms, especially by doctors or parents of school-age children.
The system was harmonized at European level in 1980. But it has been increasingly contested and the European Commission proposed in 2018 to abolish it from 2019. Finally, the European Parliament voted a postponement to 2021, to be discussed with the EU Council. But the file is still in limbo, the States not agreeing and the Covid-19 crisis having been there.
In particular, countries must be encouraged to harmonize their choice of legal time, in order to avoid ending up with a patchwork of time zones between neighbours.
In France, an online consultation organized in 2019 by the National Assembly had received more than two million responses, overwhelmingly (83.74%) in favor of the end of the time change. As for the time to stay all year round, summer (in France UTC + 2) was preferred by 59% of participants.
Overseas are not concerned
The current system does not concern overseas territories, which never change time (with the exception of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, which is based on neighboring Canada). Indeed, most of them are in latitudes where the variations in sunshine are low throughout the year, unlike Europe.
The time change is not controversial only in Europe. On March 15, the US Senate voted a bill to permanently abandon winter time and make summer time permanent. But, to come into force, it will still have to be voted on by the House of Representatives and then signed into law by President Joe Biden.