Experts propose end to hour changes, to align with ‘solar time’
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Experts propose end to hour changes, to align with ‘solar time’

Proposal follows various calls to ‘ban summer time’ and ‘ban winter time’

Against the muddled backdrop in which (in 2018) Finland, supported by the European parliament, set out to ‘ban summertime’ – and then a year later, the European Commission proposed to end seasonal changes – a group of international experts have come up with a slightly different idea, taking Member States “as close as possible to solar time”.

The idea, outlined in the Barcelona Declaration on Time Policies – signed by more than 70 international institutions – is being given air time today in national media as Portugal is just days away from ‘falling back’ into winter time.

Indeed, Portugal has been a real fly in the ointment of this debate, refusing point blank the recommendations from Brussels in 2019 to scrap wintertime, on the basis that “it would lead to sunrise taking place near or after 8am between mid-October and mid-March. This implies mass movements for work or school being carried out in dim, diffused light, and the awakening of the population with stars still in the sky for 40% of the year”.

These reasons were given by the director of Portugal’s Observatory of Astronomy Rui Agostinho and fully-backed by the government.

But now they will be under scrutiny again as the ‘battle over time’ returns. The Barcelona Declaration recommends “the transition in 1 to 2 steps depending on the member state:

  • Step 1: All EU countries abolish the clock change to DST (Daylight Saving Time) in spring and remain on the clock time they use in winter. For those countries whose recommended time zone is their current standard time, no further steps need to be taken.
  • Step 2: Those countries whose recommended time zone is not yet their current standard time, additionally turn back their clocks one last time by one hour in autumn, in order to adopt their recommended time zone as their new standard time.

Sound simple? Well clearly it isn’t as this debate has been hiccuping its way nowhere for years.

As Lusa reminds, Portugal has two time zones: the mainland and Madeira are in sync, but the Azores “are always an hour behind”. In other words there would be a lot of juggling to do if the Barcelona Declaration finally brings about some kind of new EU directive.

Says Efe, the declaration was signed by various representatives of organisations advocating healthy time zones: the International Alliance for Natural Time, the European Biological Rhythms Society and the European Medical Association, as well as experts in chronobiology, a branch of biology that studies the effects of so-called biological clocks.

These niceties may not have been high on the list of priorities when Portugal issued its report in 2019 saying ‘let’s leave things more or less as they are’. (More or less, because Rui Agostinho’s plan was actually to bring winter time FORWARDS, to start in September!)

So, for now, we are where we are. Next Sunday, whether we like it or not, we will all be plunged into winter time; dark early evenings and some muddled heads. There is no guarantee that the Barcelona Declaration will ring changes any more than all the other plans, proposals and mass-questionnaires of the past have done.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com