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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

The UAE explained: How winding the clocks back elsewhere affects the UAE

Seventy countries around the world use daylight savings time. But more, including some in the Middle East and Africa, are now abandoning it. Why?

Daylight saving time officially started at 2am on Sunday across America. Elise Amendola / AP 
Daylight saving time officially started at 2am on Sunday across America. Elise Amendola / AP 

Calling family and friends has become a bit more difficult to co-ordinate for some living in the UAE of late.

In certain areas around the world, the clocks have moved an hour back with the end of daylight savings time on the last Sunday in October or first Sunday of November.

The clocks change twice a year for many countries, giving residents longer hours of sunlight, but some have begun rethinking the move.

Last month, Morocco became the latest country to do away with daylight savings, ditching it just two days before the clocks were due to change. Its clocks are now set at summertime, GMT plus one hour, all year round.

But what is daylight savings time? And why does it affect us here in the UAE when the country does not use it?

What is daylight saving?

Daylight savings time is the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour during the summer, and then back again in autumn, or the fall, to make the most out of daylight. This is where the saying “spring forward, fall back” comes from.

In the United Kingdom, for example, which observes daylight savings, the time is set at Greenwich Mean Time during winter, but in March, the clock moves forward an hour to British Summer Time - in other words, daylight savings time. It is reversed at the end of October.

This means sunrise and sunset appear an hour later in the summer in countries that observe daylight savings time, and an hour earlier in the winter.

Where did the idea first come from?

American inventor Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest altering the clocks in 1784 to save on candles. In 1895 a New Zealand entomologist proposed moving the clock two hours to give bug hunters more light in the evenings during the summer. It was only imposed in 1916, when Germany used it to save money during First World War. Other European countries and the United States followed, but the law was repealed in the US in 1919, but reimposed in 1966. It has been the law across the European Union since the start of the 1980s, when it was introduced to save energy costs.

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Read more:

Confusing times as Morocco cancels clock change

No more spring forward or fall back for the EU

A brief history of time in India

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How many countries use daylight savings time?

The vast majority of the world’s population do not change their clocks — 80 per cent of people, in fact. Seventy countries around the world change their clocks twice a year to account for daylight savings, including much of Canada, the US, Mexico, Europe, parts of South America and New Zealand. Daylight savings was once used in much of Asia and South America, but has since been abandoned. Only a handful of African countries adopted it and it is now only observed on the continent in the Canary Islands and Madeira.

Turkey, which imposed daylight savings for a whole year in 2017, did away with it last month, ending all future clock changes by imposing daylight savings time permanently.

Countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Portugal have flip-flopped between observing the time change and doing away with it, electing to inevitably stick to daylight savings.

Are any other countries thinking of scrapping it?

The EU may be the next to ditch the time change. EU law requires all citizens to move their clocks to accommodate daylight savings time, but a survey of 4.6 million people living across the area found that most citizens were against the practice. European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker said millions think that the area should have summertime all year round, “so that’s what will happen”. The UK debates it occasionally but has never taken the plunge.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of it?

Using daylight summertime all year round delays sunrise by an hour, which would mean areas that use it, like northern Scotland, that are darker in the winter due to their location, would not see daylight until as late as 10am in the winter months. But on the other hand, campaigners claim that imposing daylight savings permanently would benefit people’s health and well-being by encouraging people to be more active. Supporters also claim more traffic accidents would be avoided on darker evenings.

Which time zone is used in the UAE?

Daylight savings has never been used in the Emirates, which observes Gulf Standard Time all year. Though, it still affects us if we are trying to contact friends and family in the UK, US or other countries that use it. As of October 28, the UK is another hour behind, so four hours as opposed to three hours the day before.