Planned expansion of transportation infrastructure in Brazil has implications for the pattern of agricultural production and carbon emissions


High transportation costs have been a barrier to the expansion of agriculture in the interior of Brazil. To reduce transportation costs, Brazil launched the National Logistics Plan, aiming to expand its railway network by up to 91% by 2035. Such a large-scale infrastructure investment raises concerns about its economic and environmental consequences. By combining geospatial estimation of transportation cost with a grid-resolving, multi-scale economic model that bridges fine-scale crop production with its trade and demand from national and global perspectives, we explore impacts of transportation infrastructure expansion on agricultural production, land use changes, and carbon emissions both locally and nationally in Brazil. We find that globally, the impacts on output and land use changes are small. However, within Brazil, the plan’s primary impacts are impressive. PNL2035 results in the reduction of transportation costs by 8–23 % across states (depending on expansion’s extent) in the interior Cerrado biome. This results in cropland expansion and increases in terrestrial carbon emissions in the Cerrado region. However, the increase in terrestrial carbon emissions in the Cerrado is offset by spillover effects elsewhere in Brazil, as crop production shifts away from the Southeast-South regions and accompanying change in the mix of transportation mode for farm products from roadway to more emission-efficient railway. Furthermore, we argue that the transportation infrastructure’s impact on the enhanced mobility of labor and other agricultural inputs would further accentuate the regional shift in agricultural production and contribute to carbon emission mitigation. Upon its completion, PNL2035 is expected to result in the reduction of net national emissions by 1.8–30.7 million metric ton of CO2-equivalent, depending on the impacts on labor and purchased input mobility. We conclude that the omission of spillover effects due to infrastructure expansion can lead to misleading assessments of transport policies.

In Science of The Total Environment (2024)
Cicero Lima
Cicero Lima
Research Economist