What are you calling for?
We want a three-year trial in which the clocks in Great Britain shift forward by one hour throughout the year – to GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in summer. This model is also known as Single Double Summer Time (SDST).
Would we still change the clocks in spring and autumn?
Yes, but everything would be an hour further forward.
Why is this a good idea?
Because shifting an hour of daylight from the mornings to the evenings will mean that more people are awake when the sun is out. Changing the clocks in this way would cut our carbon emissions by at least 447,000 tonnes every year, save around 80 lives on the road, create 60,000–80,000 new jobs, cut crime and give us more time for sport, barbecues and other outdoor activities.
But wouldn’t we have darker mornings?
Yes, we would. The one downside of shifting the clocks forward is that the sun would rise an hour later throughout the year. But for all the reasons described on this website, an extra hour of light is more valuable in the evenings than in the mornings – not least because at present most of the population sleeps through the first hour of sunlight for much of the year.
How does changing the clocks save energy and cut carbon?
The first reason the change would save energy and cut carbon is simple: by more closely matching the times when most of us are awake with the times that the sun is shining, we would reduce our daily need for electric lighting. Think about a summer day: few people are awake at, say, 5am when the sun comes up, but most homes have their lights on at 9.30pm when the sun goes down.
The second reason that shifting the clocks would save energy and carbon is a little more complicated. When we all use electricity at the same time this results in even more fuel consumption and carbon emissions than usual, because the least efficient power stations get fired up to meet the extra ‘peak’ in demand. At present, the peak demand period for electricity each day – the period between 4pm to 6.30pm, when most of us arrive home from work, school or university – coincides with nightfall for much of the year. So as well as switching on the kettle and the television when we get home, we're also switching all the lights on at the same time, making that peak in demand even higher than it would have been already.
By having lighter evenings we will use less electricity overall and we’ll flatten out the peaks in demand, too, saving a whole lot of energy and carbon in the process. Experts predict carbon savings of at least 447,000 tonnes each year – and that's just in the winter, with considerable extra savings expected in the summer.
To put that figure in perspective, 447,000 tonnes of CO2 is equivalent to more than 50,000 average cars driving all the way around the earth, or 1788 plastic bags being produced for each home in the UK.
And the bit about road deaths?
Making evenings lighter saves lives. Because most people tend to make longer and more complicated journeys after work and school than they do at the start of their day, it’s safer for them to make afternoon and early evening journeys while it’s still light outside. In fact, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) estimates that we’d save around 80 lives each year by making these changes. Children between the ages of 5 and 15 and elderly people are the groups likely to benefit most from the change.
But weren’t there more road deaths when we tried changing the clocks in the 1970s?
Quite the opposite. During the British Standard Time experiment, road casualties dropped substantially. It’s true that there was a slight increase in the number of deaths on the roads in the darker mornings, but these were more than offset by the much larger (and mostly unreported) decrease in deaths during the brighter afternoons and early evenings. That’s why leading road safety experts agree that shifting the clocks forward would be a good idea.
How would this create so many new jobs?
Leisure and tourism is the UK’s fifth largest industry, and by shifting the clocks forward we would give that industry’s attractions and resorts an all important extra hour to open their gates and take custom. The estimated benefit is so large that we’d potentially create 60,000–80,000 jobs in leisure and tourism and boost earnings in the sector by up to £3.5bn.
What else would it do?
The list goes on and on. Having lighter evenings also cuts crime and the fear of crime as streets are lighter in the evening for longer, reduces obesity by increasing opportunities for sports and other outdoor activities in the evenings, and makes us feel happier, especially the 4-6% of the population who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is triggered by a lack of exposure to natural light during the winter months.
Would it be expensive to implement?
No, it will save money. A 2009 Department for Transport consultation paper stated that while advancing the clocks would involve a one-off cost of £5 million to publicise the change, it would then result in benefits of £138.36 million a year due to the reduction in road casualties.
Not only will the change save the country money, it will also save money on household electricity bills by reducing energy use and lowering electricity prices.
Aren’t farmers opposed to the change?
They used to be. But in 2006 the National Farmers Union issued a statement saying that the reasons for their opposition to past attempts to change the clocks had been “lost in history”, and that they are now neutral or supportive of the idea.
Isn’t shifting the clocks controversial in Scotland?
Being further north than the rest of the UK, Scotland has more pronounced seasons, with particularly long days in the summer and particularly short days in the winter. Due to this fact, Scots rightly feel very strongly about how their daylight is managed. In the Scottish winter, especially, sunlight is even more precious than it is further south. At Christmas in Edinburgh, for example, the sun is only in the sky between 8.44am and 3.42pm.
As a result, the benefits of an extra hour of daylight in the evening are more pronounced in Scotland – and so are the disadvantages of an hour’s less light in the morning. All told, though, Scots are particularly well placed to benefit from shifting the clocks forward, with even greater road safety improvements than in the rest of the country and just as substantial savings in energy costs.
In October 2010, a report conducted by the Policy Studies Institute concluded that "advancing the clocks would bring the Scottish people at least as great benefits as those predicted for the rest of the UK. This finding – combined with recent Scottish polls showing fairly evenly-divided support for and against the move – adds up to an exceptionally strong case for reform.
Why hasn’t it already been implemented?
Very good question. Evidence that the benefits of lighter evenings would greatly outweigh the drawbacks has been available for decades, but for whatever reason there has never been a proper public campaign behind it. That’s where we come in.
Who dreamed up this scheme in the first place?
The idea of a shift to SDST has been around for ages, and organisations like Rospa have been campaigning for it on road safety grounds for decades. The first comprehensive study to attempt to quantify the many social and environmental benefits of SDST was way back in 1988: “Making the most of daylight hours”, from the esteemed researcher Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute. Hillman’s epic work has formed the evidence base of all discussions of this issue since, and although we had experimented with British Summer Time all year round at the end of the 1960’s, Hillman was the first to propose what the Lighter Later campaign is calling for today: GMT+1 / GMT+2.
The climate change benefits have only taken center stage more recently, following new research from Cambridge University that actually puts a – quite conservative – number on the energy and emissions savings. 10:10 has been lobbying for Daylight Saving reform behind the scenes since before we launched in September 2009 – but we certainly can’t take all the credit. The idea came to us not in a bolt from the blue, but in a report from our excellent friends at the Public Interest Research Centre – authors of key climate change texts over the past few years such as Climate Safety and Zero Carbon Britain. We commissioned them over the summer to put together a raft of policy proposals that could potentially cut 10% of the UK’s emissions in a single 12-month period. Daylight Saving reform immediately leapt out as a fantastic example of the kind of creative, positive approach to climate policy that 10:10 is all about, offering a whole host of other improvements to British quality of life – but it wasn’t the only thing on their list that we think has legs. Watch this space for more uplifting policy interventions later on this year…
Why does the day change length in the first place?
The length of the day changes through the year because the earth spins on a tilted rather than a vertical axis. In winter, the UK and the rest of the northern hemisphere are tilted away from the sun, so nights are long, days are short and the sun appears low in the sky. In summer we are tilted towards the sun, so days are long, nights are short and the sun appears high in the sky. (Of course, it works in reverse in the southern hemisphere, which tilts towards the sun during our winter and away from it during our summer.)
In the winter, we’re awake for more hours than there is daylight. So shifting the clocks just means we move an hour of daylight from the mid-morning to the early evening, bringing all the benefits already discussed. In the summer, we’d effectively gain an hour of sunlight simply because at present most of us are still asleep at when the sun rises and still awake when it sets.
So you’re telling me that there’s a quick, cheap and easy way to lower emissions, cut road deaths, help tackle obesity, create new jobs and make people happier?
Yes. Changing the clocks won’t solve all of our problems but we can’t think of a better way to kick things off.