BST: good for tourism, road safety and climate

Let the sunshine in: Why permanently changing our clocks is good for tourism, road safety and climate. New campaign launched to keep clocks forward.

Good morning! Welcome to the first day of British Summer Time. With luck you’ll have remembered last night to set your clocks forward by one hour: one more hour of sunlight to enjoy each day, as we adjust our hours of activity to fit better with the changing seasons.

Today also marks the launch of a campaign to see the UK’s clocks changed permanently – shifting them forward by two hours in summer, and one hour in winter – in order to boost tourism, reduce road accidents, and cut carbon emissions.

The campaign – called Lighter, Later – is being coordinated by 10:10, the civil society movement working for a 10 per cent cut in the UK’s emissions in 2010. It is being backed by a wide range of organisations, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Age Concern, the Tourism Alliance, and Sport for England.

The practice of changing our clocks twice-yearly goes back nearly 100 years. It was first championed by William Willett, an Edwardian reformer who was scandalised by “the waste of daylight” brought about by keeping the same working day the whole year through, despite lengthening days in the summer. (Willett was, incidentally, the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and the inspiration behind their track Clocks.) Willett’s ideas were eventually taken up by the British Government during World War One when it was realised to be an excellent efficiency measure.

The Lighter, Later campaign is proposing a further reform to make Willett’s innovation work better still. In a modern, urban, service-based economy such as the UK’s, we no longer rise with the dawn or go to bed at dusk – instead our activities are governed by the time of day, measured by clocks. To better align our working days with hours of daylight, the UK should adopt a reform known as Single Double Summer Time. This would mean moving clocks forward by two hours in summer (GMT + 2), and by one hour in winter (GMT + 1).

One of the benefits of adopting this change would be the savings in electricity resulting from lighter evenings all year round. Studies undertaken by Cambridge University show that this could save almost half a million tonnes of CO2 a year – and that’s just calculating the savings during winter.

And that’s just the start. As RoSPA state:

“The change … would make us all healthier, safer, greener, happier and wealthier, at no cost, every day for the rest of our lives.”

The evidence is compelling. Introducing the Lighter, Later reforms would:

• Create 60,000–80,000 new jobs in leisure and tourism, bringing an extra £2.5–3.5 billion into the economy each year, thanks to more people “staycationing” in the UK – according to a report for the Tourism Alliance;

Save 100 lives each year and prevent hundreds of serious injuries by making the roads safer;

• Resultantly, save the NHS £138m every year due to fewer road casualties – according to Department for Transport figures;

Benefit the elderly: Greg Lewis, Policy Manager at Help the Aged, states that “lighter evenings would mean that more older people could spend more time out of their homes if they choose to do so”;

Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter; and

Give more time outside for sport and exercise – with knock-on benefits of better health and tackling obesity.

In short, the Lighter, Later campaign is further proof that tackling climate change can have a whole host of other positive benefits – as Left Foot Forward has previously written about in relation to promoting smarter transport options and dimming municipal lighting in the early hours.

Furthermore, this is a progressive move that has support across the political spectrum. Reforming daylight savings has previously been championed by Conservative MP Tim Yeo, chair of the environmental audit committee in the House of Commons, who has repeatedly introduced private members’ bills in parliament in an effort to get the idea heard.

Disgracefully, the last time Yeo introduced such a bill, he was given just 20 minutes to debate it. Until now, the Government has not taken this eminently sensible proposal seriously. But the growing weight of support suggests it will soon have to:

• The National Farmers’ Union retracted its previous objections to the change and its membership is now neutral or supportive of the idea;

• Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative shadow tourism minister, has written in favour of reforming daylight savings; and

RoSPA, the Tourism Alliance, Help the Aged and other organisations have all stepped up their lobbying on the issue.

For Lighter, Later to succeed, it needs your support, too. Visit the website and sign up to the campaign to back a move that will save lives, make people happier and help protect the climate. It is a reform whose time has truly come.

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15 Responses to “BST: good for tourism, road safety and climate”

  1. Shamik Das

    Permanently changing clocks means no lost hours' sleep! RT @leftfootfwd: BST: good for tourism, road safety & climate:

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  3. Morus

    So the elephant in the proposal is the way this *isn’t* worded, and the benefit that is most obvious (to me at least): by having Winters at GMT+1 and Summers at GMT+2, we would no longer be on Greenwich Mean Time at all – the UK would be harmonised to Central European Time, like our EU partners. You don’t have to be a staunch Euroskeptic to wonder if this has some root in a dark and distant Directive from the Commission…

    Personally, I’ve never understood changing the clocks – why don’t people just change the times they do things, rather than the measuring instrument? – but I’m fairly agnostic on this. I don’t quite see that it would deliver all the things stated (you wouldn’t be making winter lighter, just later), but I’m open to hearing the case being made.

  4. John Cooper

    Would be fascinated to see if this proposal has legs. If we view the world from a +GMT viewpoint where would that system go?

    Morus – We change the clocks to reflect the impact that an agriculatural labouring workforce and schoolforce has had upon our society. As with holidays fitting round being able to bring in a harvest, the clocks are set to ensure individuals could be up during peak periods of light so learn and work in the fields.

    Good stuff as ever Guy!

    Warm Regards


  5. sarah

    I think we should stay at GMT all year round. An extra hour of sleep and an extra hour of pay.

    With an extra hour of sleep, people are less tired. So children spend more time learning, and adults spend more time working, which means more gets done. Benefits for everyone, AND we keep a British tradition (GMT).

  6. Mr. Sensible

    Agreed with you there, Sarah. I’ve never really understood why we do this.

    And I just find this proposal rather confusing.

  7. Robert

    I remember the experiment when I was at school. Going to school wasn’t much cop but coming home in the light and having a couple of hours daylight in the afternoons was great.

    Then there was doing my homework in the light even in the winter!

    I live in the West Midlands so already enjoyed the sun setting after 6pm before the vernal equinox – an effect noticed even more the further west you go.

    Some of the main beneficiaries of keeping BST in the winter will be those living east of Greenwich where the sun sets before 6pm at the equinox and where it gets dark earlier in the winter too.

  8. cim

    Meanwhile, up in the North, if we kept BST in the winter, the sun wouldn’t be above the horizon before 9. We also get more snow and ice up here than the Southern counties, but there’d be an hour less for it to melt before people had to get to work. There might be fewer accidents in the south in the evenings, but there’d be far more in the north in the mornings.

    Surely it would be easier to switch to 8-4 working hours in the parts of the country far enough south for this to make sense, and keep Greenwich on GMT.

  9. Morus

    John Cooper – I appreciate the principle, but I don’t see why (instead of making 8am into 9am) people don’t just start work at 8am on winter-time. People could just change the hours they do things, rather than change the actual clocks. This has always struck me as silly. It’s not like working hours, rush hour, or anything requiring daylight is immutable. Fit your hours around the clocks, rather than the other way around!!

  10. blogs of the world

    Let the sunshine in: Why permanently changing our clocks is good for tourism, road safety … #foot

  11. Mark Staniland

    Clocks forward & summer is upon us. Put them forward once more? These clever folks seem to think so:

  12. Alex

    Unfortunately these ideas always come from people who live in and around London who make it seem like such a great idea, but have no idea how the rest of the country lives. Putting the clocks forward for winter is a total nightmare (it was tried and abandoned pretty quickly), when it did not get light till half 9. This has the potential for disaster for kids going to school and people who have to work early in the morning but choose not to cycle.

    Why don’t people in the south just go to work earlier (where they can) in the winter, and companies should change there working hours to fit in with this, where the workers can’t decide.

    Leave our working and school times alone unless you are suggesting schools start later in the north, and thus people will have to go to work later and then hay presto, they don’t get the benefit of lighter nights.

    Typical Southern English arrogance and the quicker this is put to bed the better.

  13. Guy S

    Sorry that you feel that way, Alex. I live in North Wales, not South England, and I think it’s a great idea.

  14. Mr. Sensible

    Cim I happen to agree with you that we should stick to just GMT all year round.

  15. John77

    The whole idea is a con. If you want people to get up in the dark and start work an hour earlier, why don’t you just ask them to do it? If there is any sound argument for starting work at 7 am and requiring me to get up before 5 am to do so, why don’t you try to explain them? There has been every opportunity for those who want to start work earlier to do so, so why have they not done so if it is so beneficial? A few companies start work early to match the working hours of continental suppliers/customers/competitors but the relatively tiny number who have continued to do so (in contrast with the fad in the eighties) demonstrates that this is rarely worth the effort.
    The morning rush hour includes children going to school but they finish school before the evening rush hour, so it is more important for the former to be in daylight. One of the reasons why a previous experiment was rejected was an unacceptable rise in the number of children killed in rush hour accidents in the dark. The overwhelming majority of the UK is farther west than Greenwich so sunrise can be half-an-hour later than in London and asking children to travel to school before dawn in order to “boost tourism” (why should the clock change boost tourism? – answers on a postage stamp, please) is unjustified in terms of a cost/benefit balance. Dr Hillman’s suggestion that it would save on electricity costs is weird since the cross-channel cable saves massive amounts of wasted investment in generating capacity as long as the French and British demand peaks are an hour apart. The suggestion that there will be more daylight hours (“the extra hour of accessible daylight”) if you move the hands on your watch is audacious but just a tad implausible

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